Polling conducted for Carbon Brief shows that the public primarily
blame profiteering by energy companies for recent increases in energy bills. Only
7% of those polled blamed ‘green’ taxes, despite a concerted campaign by
certain newspapers to persuade them this was the culprit.
This may be connected
to another result from the same poll, which found that while 69% of people
trust climate scientists on climate change, only 10% trust the newspapers, and
this figure only rises to 17% when they were specifically asked about the
newspaper they chose to read.
Why is this? Having read today's Daily Mail and Telegraph
coverage of a new report by the Renewable Energy Foundation on the government’s energy policies, I’m inclined to
think it might be connected to the rather lax standards of journalism applied
in this area.
The magical thinking of the anti-science crowd, where the
laws of physics can be adapted to fit your political ideology, bears a strong resemblance
to <cosmic ordering, which, to quote The Cosmic Ordering Site:
the power of positive thinking and the creative energy of our thoughts to
manifest whatever we desire. There are no limits, you can ask for anything, a
new love or a new house, money or wealth, health or healing... whatever you
desire can be yours.
It might seem like a bit of a cheap shot to liken a serious
report on energy economics to a ridiculous manufactured superstition. And so I
won’t. But I will liken this particular ‘report’ to a ridiculous manufactured
superstition, for three reasons. One is that it is in no way serious (see here for
details), and the second is that the founding chairman of the organisation which
produced it is also the UK’s leading proponent of, you guessed it, cosmic ordering.
The third reason is that, while it’s vital in this sort of
debate to play the ball not the man, the ball, such as it is, has been
comprehensively played out of the park by Energy Desk, and Carbon Brief. That leaves me nothing to play but the man. I wish I were Pele, but I’m Vinnie
Jones, and this is one long late sliding tackle.
John Constable, director of the Renewable Energy Foundation,
has produced these three pages of idle musings which he amusingly refers to as a ‘report’.
The Renewable Energy Foundation is "a registered charity promoting
sustainable development for the benefit of the public by means of energy
conservation and the use of renewable energy", according to their website,
which claims to support decarbonising the economy and meeting our renewables
Here are some quotes from Margareta Stanley, REF's
spokeswoman, setting the record straight:
never been anti wind.
to say that we're anti-wind.
never criticised the renewables sector in the UK.
Confused yet? You will be.
Here are some quotes from the REF’s Director, and author of
the new ‘report’, John Constable:
consistently argued for offshore wind, among other technologies, to be made
more attractive, and for a secure role for the renewables sector. Renewables
have much to offer in tackling our energy crisis.
No, sorry, not that one, these ones:
wind is still more expensive, perhaps four or five times as expensive as
The fact is
that renewable energy is still far from competitive with fossil fuels, and
nowhere near as economically productive.
energy, the current green economy overall, is a costly output of the fossil-fuelled
mistake the frenzy of deployment for healthy growth.
those transfers of wealth from the fossil-fuelled economy, are providing remarkable
rates of return for short-term investors, but when these transfers cease, as they
will when consumers tell politicians that the prospective or actual reductions
in standards of living are unacceptable, the current green growth will
evaporate like dew before the rising sun.
What reductions in standards of living, you might well ask?
Constable (whose ‘report’, incidentally, does not include
the word ‘climate') is not merely arguing ossil fuels are cheaper. He’s
claiming a switch to green energy would propel us back into a
pre-industrial age, and not in a good way.
population would begin to step back towards the condition of ‘laborious poverty’
noted by Jevons as characteristic of the pre-coal era.
He demonstrates this by comparing the coal mining and
agricultural sectors in Britain in 1851. Apparently, the coal sector produced a
lot more energy per head than the agricultural sector. No, I’m not joking. Next
time you hear someone accuse environmentalists of scaremongering, remember
that. Renewable energy will take living standards back to the ‘pre-coal era’.
The Department of Energy and Climate Change, after dismissing
REF’s figures as unrecognisable, described the ‘report’ as:
for locking the British economy into excessive reliance on imported gas from
far-flung, unstable parts of the world.
Why would a charity dedicated to "promoting… the use of
renewable energy" publish a manifesto for imported gas?
An uncharitable interpretation might be that they were turned
from the path of righteousness by the funding they received from the gas industry.
But this would be wrong. The truth is that the REF are, and
have always been, anti-wind lobbyists. Even at their launch back in 2004, it
was abundantly clear the only issue they actually care about is blocking wind
Everything else, up to and including their name, is just an
attempt to construct a veneer of neutrality, in the hope that their fantastical
statistics will be presented as impartial research rather than the wildly
inaccurate propaganda it is. And some papers seem happy to play along.
Fortunately, their readers don’t trust them.