I’ve just come back from a weekend Conference in Jerusalem, organised by European Friends of Israel (EFI). It brought together a large number of European and national parliamentarians, and it addressed both the general situation in the Middle East, and EU/Israeli relations. I’ll be writing about it more generally, but right now I want to talk about a panel discussion in a break-out group on Sunday, on renewable energy. It was chaired by Bulgarian MEP Mrs. Antonyia Parvanova.
We heard the views of four panellists, and I managed to get the first intervention from the floor (which is beginning to be a bit of a trade-mark move with me). As near as I can remember, I said:
“Madame Chairman: Recent polling shows that citizens in the UK and the USA, and in many European countries, are increasingly sceptical about man-made climate change, and increasingly reluctant to pay for green taxes and subsidies. Meantime serious scientific questions are being asked about the theory. Serious irregularities have been revealed in the collection, analysis and presentation of climate data.
“Professor Phil Jones of the respected Climatic Research Unit at the University of East Anglia has admitted that there has been no significant global warming for fifteen years. Some scientists, especially solar scientists and astronomers, argue that the Sun has an overwhelmingly greater effect on the earth’s climate than greenhouse gases, and many of these are predicting several decades of global cooling.
“May I ask the panel: how will these trends affect the renewables sector? And if we set aside the issue of global warming, does the panel anticipate that renewables will ever be competitive in cost terms with conventional generation?”.
An Israeli government spokesman responded that climate change was an established fact. So it is, but that doesn’t make it man-made. And he said that in any case we should move to renewables because we didn’t want the pollution of coal-fired power stations. I was astonished by this answer (as I told him afterwards) because modern coal-fired power stations eliminate most of the pollutants associated with coal burning. (Bear in mind that CO2 itself is not a pollutant — it is simply a trace gas which occurs naturally in the atmosphere and which is essential to life on earth).
Mrs Petra Bayr, and Austrian parliamentarian on the panel, said that she was not a scientist, so of course she accepted the IPCC position. But she ought to look more closely. The IPCC is notorious for ignoring dissent from its own panellists. It has been captured by a small and dedicated clique of scientists who have a stranglehold on its editorial process, and it has become simply an advocacy group for climate alarmism. Much of its “peer-reviewed science” turns out to be nothing more than grey literature and propaganda from green NGOs.
Meantime its Chairman, railway engineer Ravendra Pachauri, has been widely reported as having serious conflicts of interest, as he and his think-tank TERI profit from offering environmental advice to industry.
Mrs Bayr also added that climate was changing, so we had to do something whether the IPCC was right about the reasons or not. But if climate change is not caused by CO2, then cutting CO2 will not have any effect (apart from ruining our economy). You might as well go and sacrifice a golden calf to the sky gods in the hope of changing the climate.
One recurring theme in the panel’s replies was that Israel, with limited natural resources, faces threats to its energy security, and so must go for solar PV even if costs are higher. But even in the Middle East, the sun does not shine all the time. They have night, and as we found ourselves, they also have days of rain and grey skies. An unpredictable and intermittent source of high-cost electricity doesn’t sound to me like energy security — they’d be better off with coal and nuclear.
A solar entrepreneur on the panel, Mr. Joseph Abromovitch, showed a hand-drawn graph to indicate that “grid parity” (that is, price parity between solar and conventional generation) would be achieved by 2015. But of course that assumes that the cost of conventional generation is driven up by carbon taxes or carbon trading (and even that wouldn’t apply to nuclear). If you compare the real cost of generation, without skewing the outcome with artificial penalties for carbon, I doubt that parity will ever be achieved.
One point struck me. Several speakers from the floor insisted that nuclear power should get no public subsidies. But sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander. Without public subsidies, no wind turbines or solar PV installations would ever be built.