Saturday, April 18, 2009

Green Socialism in Britain

Britain’s green plan will be unveiled on Wednesday as a cornerstone of its economic strategy. In addition to renewing its commitment to ensuring that 10% of fuel for transportation is from renewable sources – almost all of which will be bought from other countries and shipped into Britain – the budget will set targets for emissions. Strong hints are coming from Whitehall that the target will be to reduce CO2 emissions to 35% of 1990 levels by 2020.

Most rational commentators think achieving such a target is impossible, so Britain will be forced to buy “offsets” by sending money to countries to support their low carbon economies. However, both the Chancellor or the Exchequer, Alistair Darling, and the Climate Change and Energy Secretary, Ed Milliband, have signaled that the budget will set a cap on offsets, thereby forcing real and substantial change in Britain’s energy use. Britain is about to get very aggressive about becoming a low carbon economy. Rather than offsets, emitters with have to use the European Trading Scheme for carbon (ETS) and trade carbon credits or change their ways of working to achieve progressively aggressive targets – by 2050 Britain has committed to an 80% reduction in CO2 emissions.

Central to the strategy will be a focus on renewable energy, especially offshore wind power. Britain claims that it has the largest installed offshore wind power capacity of any country in the world. However, wind power generation currently produces less than 1% of Britain’s energy requirements and wind farming employs just 700 people. To achieve a shift in energy sourcing of a scale needed to achieve the 2020 target, it is estimated that an investment of close to £650 million a year and subsidies associated with the creation of 70,000 jobs would be needed.

Also on the table is a significant investment in carbon capture and storage for gas and coal fired power plants – a so far promising, but unproven technology – which will cost something in the order of £1.5 billion per power plant. Britain urgently needs to build new power capacity to replace ageing plants and to support wind-power systems, which need back up conventional power to cover periods when the wind is low and demand is high. A total of eight large power plants are needed between now and 2020 to meet Britain’s energy needs – only three new gas powered plants have received approval. Climate alarmists are urging Britain not to build any new coal powered plants and to bulldoze all existing plants by 2050.

Britain will also build nuclear power plants, despite strong opposition. Britain’s nineteen nuclear plants, which generate 19% of Britain’s energy needs, will be phased out and replaced by ten new nuclear plants using contemporary technology. These are urgently needed to avoid rolling blackouts from 2015 onwards. This concern – that supply will not meet demand – is also why new coal and gas power stations will also be built, provided that they use carbon capture. Three gas fired plants were approved earlier this year.

These measures will lead to higher energy prices for consumers and industry. So as to pay for carbon capture and the added costs of other aspects of emissions management, power companies will impose a carbon levy on all users. There are currently some six million people in Britain who are deemed to be experiencing energy poverty – where energy costs occupy over 30% of a family budget. This number is likely to rise to eight million as a result of the forthcoming budget, poverty campaigners claim.

Other issues will also be dealt with in the budget – incentives for energy efficient homes and appliances, financial rewards for trading in a car for less polluting or electric vehicle, encouragement for homes and workplaces to make use of solar and wind power. Unlikely to be announced, but seriously discussed, is the issuing or personal carbon credit cards to manage and permit trading carbon by individuals. Also unlikely is carbon labeling of food and other products to help consumers chose products with a low carbon footprint over those which are deemed to be carbon rich.

With this budget Britain wants to demonstrate, as it approaches the UN sponsored Copenhagen summit in December on climate change, that it has the greenest strategy linked to economic growth of any developed nation. It also looks as if the economy will take a beating from green alarmists who now have captured the minds of several cabinet ministers. As Vaclav Klaus, current EU President and President of the Czech Republic, has pointed out socialist planning is alive and well in the EU – and the cure is worse than the disease. Britain has the green plan disease something rotten.

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