WWF: wilful, woeful, culpable ignorance


I recently wrote  about Prof Gordon Hughes’ very thorough and striking report on the economics of wind power, which shows that when you include the essential conventional back-up, wind costs nine to ten times as much in capital terms as a regular gas-fired power station, and achieves little or no CO2 emissions savings.  You might just as well throw money into a bottomless pit.

We could achieve Brussels’ heroic emissions targets (if we wanted to) more cheaply, more quickly and more securely by a combination of nuclear and gas, than with renewables.  This point was reiterated in a new report from Policy Exchange.  This report also makes the key point that “Gas is better than wind for low carbon”.  Cheaper, quicker, more reliable.

I’ve often noted that in politics, propositions that seem obvious, intuitive and unchallengeable, prove in reality to be wrong.  An example: “We can end poverty by taking money from the rich and giving it to the poor”.  But in fact all we achieve is to slow economic growth, discourage enterprise, and create dependency amongst the less-well-off.  Similarly, if we get 30% of our electricity from “clean” wind power, that must save CO2 emissions?  Surely?  Yet according to Professor Hughes, even on the most favourable assumptions, it saves scarcely any, and may indeed save none.  It’s also vastly expensive.  Don’t trust those estimates from the wind industry.  They just look at the output of a turbine on a stand-alone basis, rather than a system of wind plus back-up.

On favourable assumptions, the cost-per-ton of CO2 emissions saved is an enormous £270, while the return on capital employed is less than 0.5% — but may be zero.  Environmentalists should be shocked by these numbers, since there are very much more cost-effective ways to achieve the results they want.  They (and our government) are spending scarce resources in the least efficient way.

Briefly, this is because the wind is intermittent, and requires back-up.  Technically, the back-up with the requisite flexibility is old-fashioned through-cycle gas, which is only about half as efficient as modern combined cycle gas plants.  And the efficiency is further reduced by the intermittent running.  This means that every KWh generated by the back-up is much more expensive, and emits far more CO2, than if you just scrapped the wind and built modern gas plants.  This is increasingly the considered view of professional environmental economists like Professor Hughes, but it seems to have escaped the green zealots.

So how do those doughty green campaigners at WWF respond to these numbers?  Do they pause and reconsider?  Not a bit of it.  Do they start to question their simplistic assumptions?  Oh no.  Jenny Banks, a policy officer at WWF-UK, says “It’s ridiculous to expect that a dash for gas at the expense of renewables would lead to bigger carbon cuts.  This is based on a very idealistic view of the effectiveness of the EU emissions cap”.

Oh no it’s not, Jenny.  It has nothing whatever to do with the “EU emissions cap” (she means the EU ETS), which as we all know has utterly failed.  No.  It’s based on a very realistic view of the economics and ecological implications of wind power.  Wind power is a disaster.  It’s simply gesture politics.  WWF is basing its policy on a simplistic, old-fashioned view of renewables, and is failing to check the reality.  It is using the donations of well-meaning people to promote policies which are bad for the economy, bad for jobs, bad for investment, bad for people — and bad for the environment.  Ironically, WWF’s prescription is bad for wildlife.

How self-defeating can you get?

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11 Responses to WWF: wilful, woeful, culpable ignorance

  1. maureen gannon says:

    I am begining to feel like a hamster in its wheel, we know it they know it , the question is what are those in power who want change doing to expose the fraud that is being enacted in the name of saving the planet.???

  2. Eric Worrall says:

    Maureen – with a few honourable exceptions, such as Roger Helmer, the answer to “what are they doing?” is “nothing”.

    As long as people keep voting for them, they will continue to hold our views in contempt. All they care about is what you do at election time, now how disappointed you are in the performance of the people you supported.

    5 years ago, at a Conservative after dinner event, I said to (at the time) a fellow Conservative “if you keep ignoring our concerns about Europe, you will lose us”. He sneered at me and replied “Where else will you go?”.

    Now of course we have an answer to that question.

  3. Auralay says:

    Roger, “It is using the donations of well-meaning people to promote policies which are bad for the economy, bad for jobs, bad for investment, bad for people — and bad for the environment. ”
    I would not mind so much if WWF was spending only donated money. Most of it’s funds are taken from taxpayers who have no say in the matter. It is a thoroughly corrupt fake charity.
    See this and follow the links. http://nofrakkingconsensus.com/2012/05/07/the-world-wakes-up-to-the-world-wildlife-fund/

  4. Malcolm Edward says:

    I resigned my membership of WWF a few years ago because it has turned into propaganda machine to promote fallacies about climate change – I got tired of their regular mailings containing climate scares. This is a great shame for the WWF as at one time it was an organisation that had a very good evidenced-based ethos.

  5. Karen Roden says:

    I’m about to resign from the RSPB, too, as they are also in the pockets, to some extent, of energy companies. There seems to be a conflict of interests here. http://www.rspb.org.uk/community/ourwork/b/martinharper/archive/2012/05/03/natural-resources-the-rspb-and-energy-companies.aspx

  6. christensen411 says:

    Thank you for this commentary. It’s interesting because on 5/29/2012 the Wall Street Journal ran a piece with the headline “Sierra Clubs Natural Gas The green lobby picks its next fossil fuel target.”

  7. Charities are now seriously big, political businesses receiving a lot of money from EU taxation too. For a couple of years, I went round begging for Christian Aid. Then, when I discovered that the bulk of their money comes directly from taxes, I stopped. Some five hours’ work yielded £5 which isn’t even a tip for a politician’s lunch. People know where it goes and they refuse to give.

    PS Christopher Booker at the end of the Telegraph today is on and on about the sheer illegality, arrogance and child snatching of the Social Services. In the (secret) case which he discusses today, some £20,000 was simply wasted on an illegal child snatch.
    He was onto wind farming from the beginning some five years ago.
    Maybe it is time to move on: we have won the wind farm argument at long last.

  8. According to the Telegraph today, Roger, the London School of Economics says, “the cost penalty and grid system challenges of intermittency are often exaggerated”. You wouldn’t be doing that would you? http://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/hay-festival/9323003/Hay-Festival-2012-Electricity-from-wind-turbines-will-soon-be-as-cheap-as-gas.html

    • No matter how ‘smart’ and expensive a grid is built, it does not and never will alter the fact that wind is intermittent and 80/90% spinning reserve will HAVE to be built and kept running – in order to avoid blackouts.
      Centrica want payment guarantees if it is to build and operate such intermittently-used plant. Still more cost to be heaped on future bill-payers.

  9. Roger Helmer MEP says:


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