Chris Huhne, described as Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change, has no time for any carping or questioning about his energy policy.
Sceptics point out that increasing numbers of scientists are doubting the fundamental CO2/climate change link, as evidence accumulates against it — most recently the CLOUD experiment at Cern, which provides compelling evidence for the alternative theory that climate change is driven largely by the Sun (a proposition which has seemed obvious to many commentators from the start).
Economists who accept the IPCC orthodoxy on CO2 nevertheless point out the economic reality that more or less no one except the EU is actually pursuing the sort of sacrificial climate policies that Huhne has espoused, and therefore that the policy is doomed to fail in its own terms, as China and India keep building coal-fired power stations. If we were to close down the entire British economy overnight (and Huhne seems to be doing his best on that), it's estimated that increased emissions from China would replace our shortfall in about twelve months.
These same economists also point out that even if we accept the IPCC line and the need to reduce CO2 emissions, nonetheless the method favoured by DECC — relying first and foremost on wind turbines — is just about the most expensive way we could approach the issue. It will drive up electricity prices, force millions more households into fuel poverty, and undermine the competitiveness of European economies, and especially of the British economy.
Huhne doesn't attempt to address these questions. He speaks instead of global leadership in the fight against climate change — but leadership in this case is akin to being the first lemming over the cliff. And he offers us a crumb of comfort in the form of "green jobs". The fight against climate change, plus investment in renewable energy, will create many thousands of jobs, he claims, and ensure that Britain is at the forefront of these critical new environmental technologies which will be the driving force of industry in the 21st century.
But again, he's going for the sound-bites, not looking at the facts. The only UK factory producing wind turbines, Vestas in the Isle of Wight, closed in 2009 with the loss of 600 jobs. Not a good omen, when Huhne plans to install 10,000 turbines by 2020. Solar panels may create a few temporary jobs on installation, but a large proportion of the panels are made in China, where they have lower labour costs, and (because much of their electricity comes from coal) much lower energy costs. There's a lesson there.
A study by Spanish Professor Gabriel Calzada of the Juan Carlos University shows that every green job created in Spain cost 2.2 real jobs in the real economy. How could that be? Two ways. By diverting resources from efficient industries into hugely inefficient "green" projects, and by raising the cost of electricity for the rest of the economy. Many of the green jobs were temporary — by some estimates nine out of ten green jobs created in Spain no longer exist. And in almost every case, the subsidy necessary to create a green job greatly exceeded the annual salary.
Calzada finds that since 2000, Spain has spent €571,138 to create each “green job,” including subsidies of more than €1 million per wind industry job. Those programs resulted in the destruction of nearly 113,000 jobs elsewhere in the economy. Each “green” megawatt installed destroyed 5.39 jobs in non-energy sectors of the Spanish economy.
Of course the Great Green Propaganda Machine has done its best to rubbish Calzada's work, but similar stories are emerging in other countries, often estimating even higher job losses in the real economy.
In the USA, President Obama started out as a real champion of green jobs, with a series of projects. We see the same sad story — budgets not spent, projects not completed, and the subsidies to create the green jobs wholly disproportionate to their value. For a more detailed analysis with quotes from the US business press, see the amusingly-titled piece "Feeding the masses on Unicorn Ribs". Hat-tip to Chris Horner of the Competitive Enterprise Institute for that one.
You know that a pet project of the greens is in real trouble when their own house journals like the Guardian and the Independent start to attack them. Check out the Independent: "The UK should learn from Obama's green jobs gamble". And in the Guardian, no less a luminary of the Green movement than George Monbiot has a piece "Solar Power Fails in Germany".
The Times, the UK's newspaper of record, reports that "Government claims (from the previous Labour administration) that the UK supports a million 'green collar' jobs have been exposed as a sham". The figures included North Sea Gas workers — and even wallpaper suppliers.
The good news is that awareness of these issues — the deceit of the green jobs promise; the vast waste and wealth-destruction inherent in our green energy programmes; and the looming disaster for the British economy — are getting a much higher profile. On my blog, I recently reviewed "Let them Eat Carbon", the new book by Matthew Sinclair of Taxpayers' Alliance, which analyses the scam in an informed and authoritative way. More recently still, we have an excellent new book by John Constable of the Renewable Energy Foundation, entitled "The Green Mirage", published by Civitas. The blurb contains this very compelling sentence: "Constable marshals evidence suggesting that target-led, state-managed and subsidy-driven clean energy policies are likely to cause the premature adoption of costly technologies exhibiting low productivity". Just so.