Friday 11 February 2011

A Eurocrat With His Brain In Gear

Here's a graph to marvel at: it's the DECC modeler's view of how UK CO2 emissions will decline in the business-as-usual case. Impressive, huh ? A 60% reduction over 20 years and set on a downward trend beyond that - quite a contribution to cleaning up our act. So why is Crapper Huhne insisting we reduce emissions still further - by 80%, no less over the same arbitrary period - at astronomical expense?

Partly, I'd say, it's because he's a machine politician and he was set on by hug-a-husky Cameron to do just this. Just as with new nuclear power - which before the election he gave good reasons for rejecting - like a good soldier he's happy enough to go against his better judgment if that's what he's told to do.

But when it will be pain every step of the way, there is something willfully perverse about pushing even harder than your orders require. For Huhne is pressing Europe to adopt an even more extreme target for the earlier milestone of 2020 (a 30% reduction) than is required for the UK to meet its self-imposed 2030 goal (20% by 2020 is all that's needed to achieve 80% by the later date according to the same DECC modeling). In other words, he's not just lobbying for everyone else in Europe to follow us down this steep, rocky and most probably infeasible path (which one could understand: we might as well enjoy some fellowship on the long road to Hell). He wants us all to go further still.

Which is where the good G√ľnther Oettinger comes in. Reported by the Grauniad:

The EU's energy commissioner dealt a heavy blow to member states that have been pressing for a target of slashing emissions by 30% by 2020, against the current 20%. He said the tougher target would force industries to move to Asia. "If we go alone to 30%, you will only have a faster process of de-industrialisation in Europe," he said. "I think we need industry in Europe, we need industry in the UK, and industry means CO2 emissions. We are willing to go to 30 % if big global partners will follow us, but if not we won't."

Herr Oettinger is from a land where they treat industry with the respect it deserves. Plenty of people advocate scrapping Vince Cable's Business Department and him with it, but if there's one last thing he should do before he packs his bags, it is to point out firmly that the only way these targets will be met is with wholesale de-industrialisation.

Oh, and of course with a net increase in CO2 emissions, which is the ghastly irony. Such large-scale manufacturing as remains in Europe is pretty energy-efficient these days. Which is more than we can say for a lot of the overseas industries that will cheerfully step into our (foreign-made) shoes.



Anonymous said...

While I agree with you, this LibDem bashing does not help. Greg Barker is also involved. Why not put a microscope on his contributions and his VC backers.

Nick Drew said...

Anon, oh, we're equal-opportunities bashers around here - we've had a go at the other Tory energy minister Hendry, who's just as bad

must admit I don't think we've bashed Barker yet. Private Eye had a dig at him and his anaerobics obsession a few months back IIRC - him and his donations from Summerleaze (great name !), and "adviser to Abramovich" ... any other interesting details you'd care to furnish us with ? (email if you'd prefer: address at 'contact us' under the banner - FAO Nick Drew, discretion guaranteed etc etc) - we offer a year's free subscription to C@W ...

Old BE said...

How can it be measured whether these legal commitments actually make any difference to the outcome compared with not having any commitments at all?

My premises are that

1) fossil fuel energy prices are only likely to increase in real terms in the coming decades

2) advanced economies have shown that they can become less dependent on energy per unit GDP over time

diogenes said...

although nGermany "respects" manufacturing, they have gone for solar power (in Germany!) with massive cost increases/subsidies....have they seen the light - or maybe (lack of solar light) and realised how ruinous a policy it is?

Mark Wadsworth said...

Yes, occasionally one of these EU-crats says something sensible, but seeing as people like you are happy to explain this to us for free and he's getting north of £200,000 a year for the privilege, it's hardly reason to rejoice, is it?

Nick Drew said...

BE - yes, the counterfactuals are difficult to assess, and Huhne's ostensible premise (more expensive electricity for the next 20 years [or more] in return for cheaper electricity thereafter) is essentially unprovable

(I say ostensible because I don't imagine he believes it for one nanosecond)

I'd offer you another premise:

3) there will be a technological breakthrough in the next 10-20 years that will transform the situation for the better

Like the logo !!

diogenes - various govts, including Germany, also Spain, are starting to see the light on the matter of subsidies that are completely barking mad: unfortunately ours lags the leaders rather significantly here

what, you may ask, is the point of being a sentient human if you don't learn from others' experiences ??? a bloody good question

Mark - I knew we were charging too little ... shall double the price of the C@W paywall forthwith ...

there you go: it'll be double from tomorrow

Steven_L said...

Forgive me Father Drew, for I have sinned ...

rwendland said...

Ummmmmmm ND. That chart at the top is just electricity generation CO2 emissions, not "UK CO2 emissions" as a whole, as your text alongside suggests.

Aren't some of the other EU targets you mention total CO2 reduction targets? Difficult to reduce the CO2 emissions from gas in our central heating boilers, or petrol in car tanks - so inevitable leccie generation will take most of the strain in reaching overall reductions.

This article reads like you've conflated the two somewhat. Say it ain't so.

Pogo said...

Personally, as a (retired) physicist I can't see why there's all the fuss about CO2 anyway. :-)

Nick Drew said...

hmmm - yes, I have some more reading to do Mr W: need to find out what Herr O's numbers relate to exactly, I may have jumped to conclusions there