Big Green, Not Big Oil, is the Enemy

Other than food, no commodity is as important to the world as energy. Yet, because of angst-ridden theoretical speculation – not empirical science – the modern green agenda has effected an intellectual disconnect

Hug a tree, not taxpayers' money

It has the power to ruin economies, impoverish countless millions and leave many of us, quite literally, in the dark and cold. We are not talking about alarmist theories of what the future climate may do. We are talking about what the current and ubiquitous green agenda is doing.

Other than food, no commodity is as important to the world as energy. Yet, because of angst-ridden theoretical speculation – note: not empirical science – the modern green agenda has effected an intellectual disconnect. It is a disconnect that has seen eco-theories eclipse energy realities such that national leaders, industry executives and even reasonable people are not engaging in rational debate let alone action.

Pitted against each other in what can only be considered as almost war-like entrenchments are environmentalists or “greens” on one side and economically-driven pragmatists on the other.

There is no contest from an economic point of view. Solar, wind and other “alternatives” favoured by the greens are not and will never be viable. From a thermodynamic point of view they will never amount to much more than one percent of world energy demand without massive and unsustainable government subsidies.

Fossil fuels, headed by the recent emergence of shale hydrocarbons -- arguably the biggest energy story in decades -- have offered an imposing argument for the world dependency on them in the foreseeable future. The future of oil and gas is not solar and wind; the future of oil and gas is oil and gas.

There is no contest between the impact on a nation’s or region’s economy between fossil and alternative energies. Just as an example, since just last year Texas’ Eagle Ford oil and gas shale deposits, one of the largest shale discoveries in the US, have generated some $61 billion in economic impact on the South Texas economy, more than doubling its impact from 2011.

Better yet for Texas, and indeed the entire country, it’s supporting more than 116,000 new jobs, with room for more. In the UK, a recent Institute of Directors report predicts that the UK shale industry could add £4bn per year to the economy and create 74,000 new jobs. 

What the other side is left with is the boogeyman of global climate change and emissions. But this is a non-starter today. First, there is an apparent and inexplicable holding to theoretical climate orthodoxy: inexplicable because, for almost two decades, there has been no warming in spite of the increase in carbon dioxide in the atmosphere

Second, and this is almost whimsical, the success of shale gas and its significant increased use in US power generation has resulted in a dramatic reduction in emissions compared to the growing use of coal-burning in Europe and other countries around the world.

As is now widely recognised, the impact of the US shale gas revolution has re-kindled interest in Europe. But the naive cultural notions of what it means to be “green” still prevail, not least at the level of leftist bureaucracy. Energy security and economic prosperity still trail in a poor second and third in Europe.

As the facts show, Europe’s green agenda is the single greatest factor driving up energy bills, up 40 percent since 2005. Somewhat belatedly – in the face of huge US success – politicians perceive shale development as a possible political trade-off; a trade-off that means partially ditching anti-fossil fuel prejudices in order to stabilise, even bring down, energy costs.

For all the panic over this which we see in growing Green angst, the reality is that theoretical environmental notions are still running the political policy show in Europe and in the UK.

But Europe’s energy confusion is indicative of a more deep-seated cultural malaise: an abject failure to grasp that even a “green agenda” must be subject to economic realism. Unless we re-visit our understanding of what we value, economically and morally, “green” government energy policies will remain, as they are in Europe, contradictory, incoherent and unsustainably uneconomic. Governments love green taxes and levies.

They provide a windfall of non-earmarked cash; but at a massive social cost. They render industries uncompetitive and unable to hire. They mire increasing millions in fuel poverty. They doom energy costs to remain artificially high – and all for no discernible environmental benefit.

Today, the public and media pantomime villain continues to be Big Oil. But, as energy insiders know only too well, even Big Oil has bought into the green agenda, if only for PR reasons. The reality is, however, that it’s the well-funded lobby of Big Green that has the greatest influence on government and government policy – and presents the greatest threat to the economy.

As Peter Lilley MP noted in a Spectator article (May 11, 2013) powerful NGOs are actually heavily funded by government – and they waste no time in using that income for spreading climate scare stories through the media; scare stories that rarely, if ever, bear close scrutiny. Yet, the WWF receives a huge £4million in UK government support, with a further €600,000 coming from the EU. Friends of the Earth Europe receive a massive £1.2 million from the EU.

Let’s get it straight, Big Green is Big Business. Next time you are moved to pitch your ‘hard-earned’ cash into a tin shaken before you while being regaled with a nonsense message – e.g. that carbon dioxide is a ‘pollutant’ – you might like to bear that in mind.

As it stands, today’s prevailing cultural “green agenda” is nothing less than a case of anti-intellectualism, costing the earth, in pursuit of the illusory.

Peter C Glover is a contributing editor to The Commentator and co-author with Professor Michael J. Economides of the bestselling Energy and Climate Wars

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