Think Tanks

Energy & Climate Change

18 Jan 2012 05:51:06

Dr Simon Less of Policy Exchange: We need to focus on growth and being greener – not ‘green growth’

Dr Simon Less is the head of environment and energy at Policy Exchange. His report, "Greening the economy - not 'green economy'" can be found here.

Chris Huhne said at the Renewable UK conference last October:

“We're missing a trick unless we start supporting low-carbon manufacturing here in Britain – and … creating the exports that will keep Britain competitive.... This government has resolved that we will be the largest market in Europe for offshore wind.… We will not heed the … green economy deniers.”

Both ‘green’ policies to promote reduced carbon emissions and growth policies (including to help pay for emissions reduction) are important priorities. But as Policy Exchange has consistently argued, muddling-up these priorities under ‘green growth’ ‘or the ‘green economy’ is damaging to both the goals of emissions reduction and growth.

The approach to securing maximum emissions reduction for minimum economic impact is to develop an effective long-term, technology-neutral carbon pricing framework to guide markets, with further support focused on maximising low carbon innovation.

But a goal of promoting ‘green growth’ instead leads the Government to favour and subsidise selected ‘green’ – usually renewable energy – industrial sectors. The ‘green growth’ argument is not that such subsidies are the best way to reduce emissions, but that they will increase overall levels of growth, exports and employment in the UK.

Continue reading "Dr Simon Less of Policy Exchange: We need to focus on growth and being greener – not ‘green growth’" »

12 Dec 2011 06:59:26

The Adam Smith Institute and Scientific Alliance predict an energy crisis if the Government continues with its focus on renewable sources

By Joseph Willits 
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TurbinefireA report produced jointly by the Adam Smith Institute (ASI) and Scientific Alliance suggests that the Government's focus on renewable energy sources is both misguided and unrealistic, and could lead to an energy crisis by the middle of the decade if pursued. The technologies used to supply renewable energy sources have been deemed inadequate to cater for the country's energy requirements. The report finds:

  • Wind and solar power are not as renewable as they ought to be, doing little to reduce carbon emissions. For wind power to be a successful energy source, the investment in turbines has to be matched by large-scale conventional back-up generating capacity, rendering CO2 reduction has rather modest. With wind power, energy cannot be stored long enough not to require back-up generators. Intermittency will often prove detrimental.
  • Energy security is an equal a concern as the reduction of carbon emissions. The intermittency of renewable energy technologies does not provide the much needed security required as many od the UK's coal-fired stations, and nearly all existing nuclear reactors are being decommissioned.
  • Renewable energy will be expensive for the consumer through higher electricity prices. The generation of renewable energy is already 28% below an already reduced target. To avoid an energy capacity crisis in the future, nuclear and gas sources would be the best option. Despite being subsidised more in the UK than other European countries, many wind farms are not built due to an inability to connect them to the Grid.
  • Both wind and solar power would be inefficient to satisfy the energy demands of the country. In order for wind farms to become a viable commercial option, they would have to rely heavily upon governmental subsidies. The capacity of wind farms would be 25%. The operational life for wind farms is only 20 years.
  • For current wind turbine targets to be met, an unrealistic number of 5 to be installed each day, would have to be achieved. The majority would also be positioned offshore.
  • The financial incentive for solar power is considerably less due to the difficulty and cost of building solar farms. Solar farms would require a larger land area to be built than both nuclear and coal-fired power stations.
  • It is not only cost, but the country's latitude which disadvantages the success rate of solar power. So far, subsidies for solar power have been on a small-scale, domestic level, which is less cost-effective.

Martin Livermore, joint author of the report has said:

“For too long, we have been told that heavy investment in uneconomic renewable energy was not only necessary but would provide a secure future electricity supply. The facts actually show that current renewable technologies are incapable of making a major contribution to energy security and – despite claims to the contrary – have only limited potential to reduce carbon dioxide emissions. Consumers have a right to expect government to place high priority on a secure, affordable energy supply. It seems that ministers have not yet realised the need to invest in more nuclear and gas generating capacity if the electorate is not to be badly let down.”

1 Nov 2011 14:00:06

In praise of the Global Warming Policy Foundation

By Matthew Barrett
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In the last few years, many conservatives have sensed a tendency within the media to give scientists, analysts and commentators who believe in global warming theories a free run. In many cases, those pro-global warming voices were unchallenged, and no balance was provided in the programmes on which they appeared. 

Pieser Benny DrThe Global Warming Policy Foundation is a think-tank founded in November 2009, directed by Dr Benny Peiser (pictured right), and chaired by Lord Lawson of Blaby, the former Chancellor. The GWPF describes itself as "open-minded on the contested science of global warming", but "deeply concerned about the costs and other implications of many of the policies currently being advocated". 

The GWPF is a registered educational charity as well as a think-tank, and it boasts cross-party support: its Board of Trustees includes crossbench, Liberal Democrat, and Labour peers, as well as the Bishop of Chester, Peter Forster. The Academic Advisory Council features leading scientists including Professor Freeman Dyson and Dr Matt Ridley. 

The GWPF is one of the most important think-tanks in Britain today, because it is helping to provide the balance that has been so sorely lacking in the mainstream of our economic and environmental policy debate for much of the last decade. The GWPF offers reports, lectures and scientific analysis.

Its website includes a section called The Observatory, edited by Dr David Whitehouse, which provides analysis of recent developments. It also includes an opinion section, UK, international, energy and science news sections, and a "best of the blogs" roundup. 

Continue reading "In praise of the Global Warming Policy Foundation" »

17 Aug 2011 12:38:40

Matthew Sinclair's 'Let them eat carbon' - the crippling cost of climate change policy

By Joseph Willits 
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Letthemeatcarbon Matthew Sinclair, Director of the TaxPayers’ Alliance (TPA) has written a new book exposing the crippling cost of climate change policy, and the special interests that profit most.  His ultimate call is for such policies to be scrapped, that are detrimental to the consumer, and are only beneficial to huge businesses that thrive at their expense.

‘Let them eat carbon’ evaluates the financial implications involved in climate change policy.  In ‘Let them eat carbon’ Sinclair reveals the financial implications of regulations such as the Renewables Obligation and the EU Emissions Trading System (EU ETS).

Sinclair cites these two examples amongst others, as already costing billions, yet they are expected to cost even more in the future.  His findings state that:

Continue reading "Matthew Sinclair's 'Let them eat carbon' - the crippling cost of climate change policy" »

24 May 2011 06:10:28

Lord Turnbull publishes devastating critique of the Coalition's climate change policies

By Tim Montgomerie 
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Scepticism about climate change takes at least four forms:

  1. Some sceptics don't believe that the climate is changing.
  2. Others believe that climate is changing but it isn't 'man-made'.
  3. Some believe that climate change is happening but they don't believe government action can make a difference.
  4. Some believe that government might be able to make a difference but it's too expensive or risky to try.

Screen shot 2011-05-23 at 19.42.09 The various forms of "denial" are lumped together by those environmental fundamentalists who would discredit any voices of caution about expensive action to combat climate change. Another tactic of the climate change industry is to portray sceptics as fringe characters. That tactic is getting harder especially when figures as serious as Lord Turnbull are joining the sceptics. Lord (Andrew) Turnbull was, until recently, the most senior British civil servant and he's just written a paper for the Global Warming Policy Forum setting out his worries. Download a PDF of his full paper. He expresses many concerns about climate change science but some of his biggest policy concerns are highlighted in extracts below:

Britain should NOT act unilaterally: "Our Climate Change Act imposes legal duties, regardless of what ever else other countries do, or do not do. The UK, producing only 2-3 percent of world CO2 emissions, can have only a minimal effect on the global warming outcome. If we push too hard on decarbonisation by raising the price of carbon through a range of instruments we will suffer double jeopardy. Energy-using industries will migrate and, if the climate pessimists are right, we will still have to pay to adapt, e.g. by raising our flood defences."

Are we right to try and stop global warming or should scarce resources be invested in adaption? "Policy has been based on a preponderantly warmist view of the world. Many such as the Institution of Civil Engineers think that too little attention has been paid to adaptation, i.e. being more resilient whichever way the sum of natural forces and CO2 takes us, up or down."

Continue reading "Lord Turnbull publishes devastating critique of the Coalition's climate change policies" »

19 Oct 2010 07:42:31

Dalibor Rohac: The environmentalist movement would lock the developing world in poverty

Dalibor Rohac is a Research Fellow at the London-based Legatum Institute.

LEG_Large_NavyBG_Gold_jpg There is no rational basis for the series of extravagant claims made by the latest edition of biannual study "Living Planet," published by the World Wide Fund for Nature.

Of course, the WWF ought to be commended for its efforts to preserve biodiversity around the world. However -- while biodiversity is a worthy goal -- in pursuing it the WWF too often seems to forget about members of the human species - particularly the most vulnerable ones, living in developing countries. For instance, their campaign with SkyNews called for a blanket ban on importation of palm oil, in spite of the fact that most companies producing palm oil do adhere to standards of sustainable harvesting, and employ hundreds of thousands.

If taken seriously, the "Living Planet" report can lead to policy solutions such as this that will certainly hurt millions of people in developing countries.  One would think that such policies should only be undertaken in light of very solid scientific conclusions.  However, the scholarly foundations on which the report's bold claims stand are quite fragile, as they are based on the rather dubious practice of identifying recent trends and simplistically extrapolating them forward into the future - a method that fails to account for either the temporary nature of the underlying causes or the human capacity to adapt to changing conditions.

For example, the main metric used in the study is biocapacity - defined as the area available to produce renewable resources and to absorb CO2. This includes mostly grazing land, crop land, fisheries, forests, and natural resources needed to absorb carbon emissions. By the report's own admission, the rather extravagant claim that we are now using 50 percent more resources than the Earth can sustain - and that by 2030 we will be using twice as much as the Earth can provide - is driven almost entirely by the WWF's estimate of the area needed to absorb current carbon emissions and by the rapid increase in CO2 emissions since the 1960s.

Nevertheless, we know that people do adjust to changing conditions and to constraints which they face. Land use - in agriculture, in industry or in commercial development - is very different when land is abundant and when it is scarce. Similarly, agriculture has undergone massive changes in response to the relative abundance of land and labour in various areas of the world. The Green Revolution in agriculture of South-East Asia, for instance, led to dramatic increases in yields of rice and other grains, and enabled India and Bangladesh to avoid the famines that had been predicted by environmental alarmists.

Overall, there are no signs that the world is running out of agricultural resources such as arable or grazing land. Food prices have undoubtedly increased in the past decade, but this can be largely explained by the massive subsidizing of bio fuel production, for which the environmentalist movement is largely responsible.

Continue reading "Dalibor Rohac: The environmentalist movement would lock the developing world in poverty" »

17 Aug 2010 08:44:33

Green taxes to treble by 2020, warns Policy Exchange

"Policy Exchange," reports The Telegraph, "calculated that the cost of green taxes, surcharges and other levies on energy will go from £5.7 billion this year to £16.3 billion in 2020. The increase will add £40 to the average household gas bill and £8 to an electricity bill, according to data from the Department of Energy and Climate Change. Household energy bills are increased by a number of Government environmental policies, including the Renewables Obligation and other levies applied to energy usage to fund low-carbon power generation. Energy companies also face charges for schemes including the European Union’s Emissions Trading Scheme, costs which are then passed on to customers."

Simon Less, Policy Exchange’s head of environment and energy, commented:

“The funding for these policies may come through energy bills, rather than the tax man, but it is a tax, and an increasingly large one paid by individual households and firms. Its scale makes it even more important that this money is used in the most efficient way possible.”

As the Daily Mail reports, the burden of these taxes is likely to fall most heavily on the poor.

28 Jul 2010 08:11:26

A greener, cheaper energy policy

By Neil O'Brien of Policy Exchange.

Screen shot 2010-07-28 at 08.10.26 Yesterday saw two big developments in Britain’s climate policy.

Firstly, the Department of Energy and Climate published a new report, which says that our current set of green policies are on course to raise electricity prices by a third. Given that a 1% rise in energy prices pushes around 40,000 people into fuel poverty, this is a major problem.

But there is also a big political opportunity here.  Here’s why.  Gordon Brown woke up to green issues pretty late in the day, and the goal of the last Government sometimes seemed simply to be seen to be doing as much “green stuff” as possible, with cost no object.

As a result, our current green policies were been cobbled together quickly and badly.  Not only are some of the individual policies pretty ropey, but the policy mix taken as a whole doesn’t really work: in fact lots of the different policies overlap, or even cancel each other out.  Instead of being a coherently designed system, politicians have just added more and more policies over time.

It’s a now a real mess.  We have a huge number of different green policies, including (but not limited to):

•    The EU Emissions Trading Scheme (EUETS)
•    The Renewables Obligation (RO)
•    The Climate Change Levy (CCL)
•    The Carbon Reduction Commitment Energy Efficiency Scheme (CRC)
•    The Feed-in Tariffs for microgeneration (FiTs)
•    The Carbon Capture and Storage Levy (CCS Levy)
•    The Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI)
•    Air Passenger Duty (APD)
•    And Fuel Duty is often cited as a green tax.

And within each of these different polices there are often several rates and exceptions.  For example, oil, coal and gas attract different rates within the Climate Change Levy.  The rules on different types of micro-generation would require thousands of words to explain.

Worse still, the different policies are all layered on top of each other, in a rather higgledy-piggledy fashion.   For example electricity prices already encompass the costs of the EUETS, the RO, and will soon incorporate the CCS Levy and Feed-in Tariffs.  For many businesses, the CCL is added on top – soon to be complemented by the CRC.  Some companies will face costs from all this alphabet soup of policies.

Some of these policies are much more effective than others. The differences are huge: in fact Feed-In Tariffs for micro-generation are about 100 times more costly than the Climate Change Levy.  The main reason for this is that politicians can’t resist picking winners – favouring some technologies over others for political reasons, rather than letting the market find the cheapest way to reduce emissions.

For example, the Renewables Obligation and the Feed-in Tariff are two technology-specific policies which aim to encourage lots of renewables.  This ensures we get lots of shiny new wind farms, rather than reducing emissions some other way.  However, it also inflates the cost of going green enormously.

Costgraph Some people argue that the much higher costs of these policies are justified, because they support demonstration and early-stage deployment of new technologies. There would be a strong case for this, and helping to promote technology change is one of the most useful contributions the UK could make to addressing global carbon reduction.  However, policies like the RO and FiTs, don’t really do this: they are mostly about generously subsidising the mass deployment of known technologies like wind.

Continue reading "A greener, cheaper energy policy" »

19 Jul 2010 19:12:43

ExxonMobil funds climate change sceptics

By Tim Montgomerie

For once it wasn't BP that was making the headlines but the US "oil giant", Exxon;

Screen shot 2010-07-19 at 18.54.54 This morning's Times (£) led on a report that "ExxonMobil, parent company of Esso, gave almost £1 million last year to organisations that campaign against controls on greenhouse gas emissions."

I kept looking for the 'news' in Ben Webster's report that justified the front page splash. I couldn't find it.

It's perfectly legitimate for businesses to fund friendly think tanks if (a) those think tanks/ campaign organisations are transparent about their funding and (b) those think tank/ campaign organisations have not altered their worldview in order to get the funding. Overall it's a very good thing that businesses are helping to fight the seemingly remorseless rise of the interventionist state. The deregulation, low tax side of the economic debate needs to be stronger.

There is an argument for the French belief that truth is found primarily via one Olympian investigator. It's also the BBC's approach to impartiality. I prefer the Anglo-Saxon model that is inherent in our legal and political systems - of prosecution and defence; of goverment and opposition. I think it's healthy that important issues - like climate change with its far-reaching economic and other implications - are properly debated.

Ahead of last year's Copenhagen summit, politicians across the world - led by Australia's Kevin Rudd - were ready to rush the world into action on climate change, using what Bill Gates has correctly called immature technologies. Think tanks, supported by Exxon but by many, many other sources of income, stopped that rush into economic ruin. They painstakingly asked the tough questions about the economic cost of developed nations trying to stop developing nations from having the same access to low cost electricity and transportation. The Times' attack on Exxon should not blind us to the important role of those think tanks.

4 Jul 2010 10:04:34

The Global Warming Policy Foundation notes the political retreat from action against climate change

One of the big casualties of the recession has been action against climate change.

The Global Warming Policy Foundation - formed by Nigel Lawson - highlights an article by Lawrence Solomon of the Financial Post which lists the increasing number of political retreats from action on climate change:

  • France: "France’s President Nicolas Sarkozy, who had vowed to “save the human race” from climate change by introducing a carbon tax by the time of the G8 and G20, was a changed man by the time the meetings occurred. He cancelled his carbon tax in March, two days after a crushing defeat in regional elections that saw his Gaullist party lose just about every region of France. He got the message: Two-thirds of the French public opposed carbon taxes."
  • Australia: "Kevin Rudd, Australia’s gung-ho global-warming prime minister, lost his job the day before he was set to fly to the G20 meetings; just months earlier Australia’s conservative opposition leader, also gung-go on global warming, lost his job in an anti-global-warming backbencher revolt."
  • Spain: "Prime Minister José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero, his popularity and that of global warming in tatters, decided to gut his country’s renewables industry by unilaterally rescinding the government guarantees enshrined in legislation, knowing the rescinding would put most of his country’s 600 photovoltaic manufacturers out of business."
  • Italy: "Silvio Berlusconi similarly scrapped government guarantees for its solar and wind companies prior to the G8 and G20, putting them into default, too."
  • USA: "Public opinion surveys now predict that this November’s elections will see sweeping change in the United States, with legislators who have signed on to the global-warming hypothesis being replaced by those who don’t buy it."
  • UK: " The two government departments responsible for climate-change policies — previously immune to cuts — must now contract by an extraordinary 25%. Other U.K. departments are also ditching climate-change programs — the casualties include manufacturers of electric cars [and] the Low Carbon Buildings Program."

It's not just the sceptical GWPF that is of this view. Fleet Street's greenest are agreed. The Telegraph's Geoffrey Lean blogged this after George Osborne's Budget:

"Greenery took up all of 52 words in the Chancellor’s 57 page budget speech."

Mr Lean may get a £2.5bn tax on the airline industry in the autumn (Sunday Times (£)) but this is driven primarily by the need to raise revenue rather than motivated by green politics. Lean himself noted that movement on the environment was "backwards" at last week's G20 gathering.

Meanwhile, China continues its large-scale opening of new coal mines.