Thursday, 27 June 2013

The usual dispiriting Uppal rubbish

I wrote to my MP, Paul Uppal, asking him to vote for an amendment setting a maximum carbon production ceiling target by 2030. 

He voted against the amendment and wrote back with the usual boilerplate rubbish dictated by Tory HQ. Apparently rather than identifying a maximum we can safely pump into the atmosphere, we need to consider 

prevailing circumstances at the time, and in the context of the economy as a whole. 

This means, of course, kicking the can down the road and ensuring that the big polluters continue to pollute. What these Tories cannot comprehend is that there's a massive economic opportunity in building a renewable-energy economy. All they can see is their donors' perspectives, allied to their American-style rejection of climate science in its entirety. 'The context of the economy as a whole' actually means not impinging on the obscene profits made from wrecking the planet. But we all know what happened to other sectors of British industry that refused to invest in new technology: look at the decline of UK cars, aerospace, ship-building, electronics, chemicals and heavy industry. All gone to Japan, then China and soon Brazil and India. The same will happen with energy. 

Uppal tells me that:

The government is already pushing through ambitious reforms to overhaul existing old fossil fuel plants and replace them with new low carbon generation. 

It isn't. It plain isn't. Coal burning for power generation has increased over recent years from 31% of the energy mix to 40% because coal is cheap. The 'ambitious reform' to which Uppal refers is a failed competition to get Carbon Capture and Storage to work in one or two power stations. It hasn't worked and isn't likely to: it's just a little present to the coal burners rather than a serious idea. 

So it's clear that free-market solutions don't work: given the chance, polluters will opt for the cheapest substance, which happens to be the nastiest. Corporations don't invest in the future: they strip-mine the present because nobody gets bonuses and dividends for being responsible.

What else does Uppal say?

…new Contracts for Difference… will help developers secure the large upfront capital costs for low carbon infrastructure
This is Uppal's way of admitting that capitalism doesn't actually work. 

If you've never heard of a Contract for Difference, you're lucky. It's a nice shiny technical term for a bloody big bribe, or subsidy. Like with the railways, we've decided that we want an economic system which looks like the free market but is actually a state-subsidised racket. We need renewable energy. The government wants nuclear power stations. The private sector will build and operate them, but they can't build them on time or on budget (Flamanville and the Finnish one are both coming up to a decade late and the costs have soared into the stratosphere) and they can't operate them profitably, mostly because coal is so cheap. So they demand Contracts for Difference to cover the gap between the price at which they sell electricity and the price (plus profit) at which they produce electricity. 

The simple answer, of course, is for governments to own and run electricity generators. It would be cheaper: it's never been easier for governments to borrow money. But that would mean admitting that markets aren't the solution to everything. 

The other solution of course is to tax carbon, so that the cost of environmental damage is built in. But then we'd have to take climate change seriously, and think about changing our lifestyles. 

I won't bore you with the rest of Uppal's letter because it's misleading, disingenuous bullshit. He mentions the Green Deal, which is a) a bit of scam and b) a failure, and the Green Investment Bank, which isn't a bank and has a piddling amount of money which I strongly suspect will be wasted. It's just an attempt to promote markets rather than tackle climate change. And oh yes, it's only funded until 2015.

So let's skip to the end of Uppal's missive:

I feel that the Government is already taking the necessary action to decarbonise Britain's energy supply… the Government is determined to achieve our carbon goals, and will continue to work towards a low carbon future. 
OK. Let's put that to a nice, simple test. What happened to the UK's carbon emissions last year? 
The UK's emissions of climate-warming gases surged in 2012 as cheap coal replaced gas in power stations, official data revealed on Thursday. 
The UK's carbon dioxide emissions rose by 4.5% from 2011-12, with coal use in power stations jumping by 31%. Coal prices have dropped significantly as the US has exported the coal it no longer needs at homedue to the shale gas boom 
But don't worry, we've got tough targets. Haven't we?
The UK is on track to miss its carbon targets in the 2020s, the government's advisers on climate change warned on Wednesday. Efforts to cut emissions are not happening quickly enough, and a looming "policy gap" will lead to a shortfall in the investment and infrastructure needed for a low-carbon economy, they said. 
But that's just a parliamentary report and will of course be entirely ignored. Because we're not dealing with facts here. Just more of Uppal's lies and evasions. Which is why he's climbing the greasy pole with alacrity.  

1 comment:

Jake said...

In fairness to the not actually very Hon. at all Mr Uppal, who the hell cares about a carbon target for twenty-odd years away? The time to be doing that sort of gradual, long-term transition was before the shit hit the fan.

And those nuclear power stations are probably the only useful thing the Tories have done since they got elected. However much we may wish otherwise, solar and wind alone won't cut it; even if renewables weren't bottlenecked by the limits of current battery technology, with no new breakthroughs in sight, the supply is dictated ultimately by the state of the weather. I'd rather make up the shortfall with a few nuclear power stations than by burning coal.