There is something paradoxical about identifying a would-be environmental policy as having ‘scorched earth’ characteristics. Nevertheless, NuLab’s setting of wilfully infeasible targets for emissions-reduction and renewable energy development, can have that effect. And, they seem to have scorched the brains of the Coalition to boot.
This has nothing to do with the ‘legally binding’ aspect of their targets, because upon examination it turns out (of course) that under the legislation the Secretary of State retains for himself the right to change the targets more or less at will. No, the threefold damaging aspects lie elsewhere.
1. the stymieing of extremely useful technology, to wit, the new generation (no pun intended) of ultra-efficient coal-burning technology which needs no subsidy to let it prosper, and which is the ideal replacement for old coal plant. All it needs is to be freed of the open-ended obligation to fit (or retro-fit) carbon-capture systems.
2. the dreadful and unnecessary cost we will be put to, when after years of hiatus in mainstream development, and expenditure on windfarms, solar arrays, and the whole panoply of remedial measures and monstrous feed- in tariffs needed to accommodate these inefficient toys, we finally need an emergency programme of new gas-fired plants to meet our needs.
3. worst of all, the looming trap of signing up to international ‘penalties’ for failure to meet the certain-to-fail targets. To be fair, NuLab was prevented from taking this one final insane step by the chaotic non-result of Copenhagen. But they greatly encouraged the ravening international-taxers by their manic willingness to sign up for ever more ludicrous commitments.
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How badly scorched is this earth ? We are certainly doomed to a needlessly expensive resolution of the coming power-generation gap (see this blog passim). However, I’d say the greater problem is that NuLab’s enviro-policies seem to have scorched the brains of both the Coalition parties. The differences between all three manifestos in this area were mere matters of detail.
There is one glimmer in the gathering gloom: a recently-reported willingness in the Coalition to rethink the threatened Environmental Performance Standards for power plants, which are part and parcel of (1) above. Might this be the first sign of a U-turn ? More anon.
Otherwise, the prospects for near-term relief from these crazy policies depend on us being overtaken by highly undesirable events – energy prices so steep that it all becomes irrelevant; and/or a second round of recession/depression that so reduces energy demand, and our ability to pay for crazy green schemes, that once again it’s no longer an issue.
Not a happy prospect.