Wind and the Green Dream: Flatulence and Fancy

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The renewable energy industry, more particularly the wind industry, has always portrayed itself as the noble knight on the white charger, crusading to save our planet from global warming and climate change.

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Nothing could be further from the truth. The wind industry is based on pseudo science, distortion and puffery, and in some cases, downright lies.

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In June 2010 the highly respected climate-change economist Bjorn Lomborg warned that the EU’s 20/20/20 renewable energy policy did not make any economic sense:

“New research shows that the EU’s “20/20/20″ policy, which aims to cut greenhouse gas emissions to 20 per cent below 1990 levels by 2020 (and ensure 20 per cent renewable energy), will cost hundreds of billions of euros but yield only tiny benefits. The UK alone will be hit to the tune of an annual 35 billion euros (£28 billion).”

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The EU recently stated that it would cost £39 billion a year to meet its emissions target. That figure is implausibly optimistic. Averaging out the best-regarded economic models shows that, even if politicians got their policies exactly right, the cost would come to at least £90 billion a year (123 billion Euros a year).”

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And Europe has not got it exactly right. Instead, it has made things worse, by introducing additional red tape, complication and constraints – in particular, that 20 per cent renewable-energy target. This is expensive because popular “green” energy sources such as wind and solar power cost more than replacing coal with gas. As a result, the real cost of EU policy is likely to be as much as £170 billion.” (231 billion Euros per year).”

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/europe/eu/7867422/The-EUs-response-to-global-warming-is-a-costly-mistake.html

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Another climate-change economist has been even more damning of the EU renewable energy programme than Lomberg.  Richard Tol, in his study for the Copenhagen Consensus Centre, using the conventional estimate that one ton of carbon dioxide is likely to cause about $7 (£4.50) of damage, found that the total benefit of the EU policy was just £5.7 billion.

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In other words, every euro spent is likely to generate just three cents’ worth of benefits.

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Lomberg’s research shows that by the end of this century, the EU’s approach will reduce temperature rises by approximately 0.05C – almost too small to measure.

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Lomberg’s conclusion is staggering:

“What Europe must not do is continue to barrel down a path that makes no economic sense. Yet it seems committed to its reckless course. The European Commission wants to toughen the carbon-reduction target to 30 per cent below 1990 levels – which Tol calculates would cost roughly £370 billion a year (503 billion Euro per year), twice as much as the existing plans. The effect, over the next 90 years, would be to reduce temperatures by an additional one-hundredth of a degree.” (my emphasis).

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It gets worse. Both Tol and Lomberg are economists, and they rely on others to produce global-warming figures. We now know that the global warming figures being bandied about in 2010 were massively over-inflated.

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If truth be told, we simply don’t know what environmental damage greenhouse gases are doing. The evidence is mounting that the mathematical models used for predicting climate change effects are not an accurate reflection of the complex dynamics which are occurring, and that their predictions do not reflect what is actually happening, such as whether the global temperature has actually increased in the previous decade, and if so, by how much and why. We still do not really understand the natural cycles which have always occurred, or if there are those who do understand them, it might not be in the interest of certain political and financial bodies to explain them to us.

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This point is forcefully made in the Working Group I (WGI) contribution to the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Fifth Assessment Report (AR5), which in 2015 is one of the latest and key summary documents of the IPCC. Section 1.4 of this Report deals with the whole area of uncertainties, and the following are only a few extracts:

“The models used to calculate the IPCC’s temperature projections agree on the direction of future global change, but the projected size of those changes cannot be precisely predicted. Future greenhouse gas (GHG) emission rates could take any one of many possible trajectories, and some underlying physical processes are not yet completely understood, making them difficult to model. Those uncertainties, combined with natural year-to-year climate variability, produce an ‘uncertainty range’ in temperature projections.”

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“There are fundamental limits to just how precisely annual temperatures can be projected, because of the chaotic nature of the climate system. Furthermore, decadal-scale projections are sensitive to prevailing conditions—such as the temperature of the deep ocean—that are less well known. Some natural variability over decades arises from interactions between the ocean, atmosphere, land, biosphere and cryosphere, and is also linked to phenomena such as the El Niño-Southern Oscillation (ENSO) and the North Atlantic Oscillation.”

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“The final contribution to the uncertainty range comes from our imperfect knowledge of how the climate will respond to future anthropogenic emissions and land use change. Scientists principally use computer-based global climate models to estimate this response. A few dozen global climate models have been developed by different groups of scientists around the world. All models are built on the same physical principles, but some approximations are needed because the climate system is so complex. Different groups choose slightly different approximations to represent specific processes in the atmosphere, such as clouds. These choices produce differences in climate projections from different models. This contribution to the uncertainty range is described as ‘response uncertainty’ or ‘model uncertainty’.”

https://www.ipcc.ch/publications_and_data/publications_and_data_reports.shtml

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In other words, the mind-numbing figures projected by Lomberg and Tol are probably underestimations. We now know that the renewables bill for the EU has already exceeded one trillion euros.

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However, when these arguments are raised, for example, at public consultations or even in the media, they are immediately met by loud accusations of “climate change denial” and “fossil-fuel crony”.  This sort of hysterical outburst has no place when we are talking about the expenditure of vast sums of public money on dodgy computer projections of very questionable authenticity. We all know that the planet is getting warmer – we don’t really know why this is or whether it will increase (or decrease) in the future.

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Clearly we cannot sit around and do nothing until the real figures come in. But we similarly cannot spend massive budgets on figures or projections that are highly suspect. That money could be better spent on other areas of genuine need, including proper research into alternatives to wind energy.

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It is clear that the EU have got it spectacularly wrong. Can the Irish Government put on an injured look and claim “we were only doing what the EU told us”? No, it cannot. As early as 2009, the same Professor Richard Tol, when he was working for the Irish Economic Science and Research Institute, stated:

“Projections of future emissions and future climate change have become less severe over time—even though the public discourse has become shriller.

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“The quantity and intensity of the research effort on the economic effects of climate change seems incommensurate with the perceived size of the climate problem, the expected costs of the solution, and the size of the existing research gaps. Politicians are proposing to spend hundreds of billions of dollars on greenhouse gas emission reduction, and at present, economists cannot say with confidence whether this investment is too much or too little”.

Tol, R. “Economic Effects of Climate Change” in Journal of Economic Perspectives – Volume 23, Number 2, Spring 2009, Pages 29-51.

https://www.aeaweb.org/articles.php?doi=10.1257/jep.23.2.29

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Did the politicians listen then or are they listening now? Of course not. They are too busy working out how much money they can make from land deals, or what salaries they will receive when they lose their seat in the next election. This might explain why the highly respected Richard Tol left our shores.

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The public needs to sit up and realise that a vast amount of public money is being spent on a renewable energy program that is based on spurious politically-motivated figures and data without any scientific basis. The fact that the environmentally unfriendly, overpriced, grossly inefficient and financially motivated wind industry is spearheading this program serves to underline that fact.

About Neil van Dokkum

Neil van Dokkum (B. SocSc; LLB; LLM; PGC Con.Lit) Neil is a law lecturer and has been so since arriving in Ireland from South Africa in 2002. Prior to that Neil worked in a leading firm of solicitors from 1987-1992, before being admitted as an Advocate of the Supreme Court of South Africa (a barrister) in 1992. He published three books in South Africa on employment law and unfair dismissal, as well as being published in numerous national and international peer-reviewed journals. Neil currently specialises in employment law, medical negligence law, family law and child protection law. He dabbles in EU law (procurement and energy). Neil retired from practice in 2002 to take up a full-time lecturing post. He has published three books since then, “Nursing Law for Irish Students (2005); “Evidence” (2007); and “Nursing Law for Students in Ireland” (2011). He is an accredited and practising mediator and is busy writing a book, with Dr Sinead Conneely, on Mediation in Ireland. His current interest is Ireland’s energy policy and its impact on the people and the environment. He is also researching the area of disability as a politico-economic construct. Neil is very happily married to Fiona, and they have two sons, Rory and Ian.
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4 Responses to Wind and the Green Dream: Flatulence and Fancy

  1. Pat Swords says:

    An excellent summary. Indeed, people should reflect on the goings on in 2009 and 2010, which are the root cause of the mess, which is being implemented around us. Note only did the NREAP date to 2010 and was the product of highly questionable behaviour, not least due to the illegalities, by the Green Party Minister for Energy Eamon Ryan, but his Green Party colleague, Minister for the Environment John Gormley, was equally bad. When that Government collapsed in early 2011, the Climate Change Response Bill was in the Seanad, at the same time as the public consultation was being rushed through on it, see below:

    http://www.environ.ie/en/Environment/Atmosphere/ClimateChange/ClimateChangeResponseBill2010Consultation/

    I would encourage people to look at the Regulatory Impact Assessment document in the above link, it is short in length and not only short of, but completely devoid of any factual analysis, i.e. in particular the quantification of costs and benefits. Ireland has had a mandatory process of Regulatory Impact Assessment since 2005, the revised 2009 guidelines (little changed from 2005) are below. Just go to the section on costs benefit analysis:

    http://www.taoiseach.gov.ie/eng/publications/publications_archive/publications_2011/revised_ria_guidelines_june_2009.pdf
    “Once the options have been outlined, the costs, benefits and impacts of these options should be identified and analysed. It is important that all impacts are analysed to some extent as well as just merely identified. Where possible monetise cost and benefits (i.e. place a monetary value on them). Where monetisation is not possible, costs and benefits should be quantified (expressed numerically e.g. number/proportion of lives saved, reduction in traffic volumes etc). The level of analysis undertaken should be proportionate to the significance of the proposal”.

    It doesn’t take a genius to realise that the financial and other implications of the Climate Change Response Bill were simply horrendous, the 26% reduction in fossil fuel usage by 2020 was realistically in the lifespan of the State, only exceeded in relation to impacts by the Second World War. Yet not a single figure was presented in the Regulatory Impact Assessment document to justify these costs or quantify the impacts, not to mention the alternatives. My submission objected to the measures, as I know did others, yet the analysis of the responses at the above link concluded otherwise:

    “In general, all respondents were very positive about the need to act on climate change mitigation and adaptation.”

    Interestingly enough, after the Government fell, the Department of Finance prepared a briefing note for the incoming Minister, which partly redacted was available on the web. It went in turn through each of the Departments in the Civil Service, and with regard to the Department of Environment provided no redaction to the below:

    • “The policy agenda on climate change has been driven recently more by ideology and target-setting rather than being informed by a rational assessment of what is possible and what is in Ireland’s interest, given the costs and benefits involved”

    • “Climate Change Response Bill: The draft Climate Change Response Bill was at Second stage in the Seanad last month (January 2011). This bill fell with the fall of the Government. In the context of preparations of this Bill, the Department expressed grave reservations about its content, particularly targets that appeared to be well in excess of EU targets”.

    So they didn’t agree either, but their valid concerns were swept aside; sure wasn’t the planet to be saved even if they could provide absolutely no figures to remotely support this belief / groupthink.

    To me this is an age old issue of belief systems, ideologies, dogma, etc. If one wants to practice carbon piety in one’s own personal space, then one has an entitlement to do so, such as within reason paddling one’s canoe across the Irish Sea rather than take a fossil fueled ferry or airplane. The issue though is that when one sees an entitlement to use the State apparatus to force one’s beliefs onto others, in particular as human history teaches us that many such beliefs, ideologies, and dogmas are a product of vanity and self indulgence.

    The State and its apparatus has to be impartial to whatever trendy cause is in vogue, the rule of law is there for a reason and has to be adhered to. Currently we have officials, both elected and non-elected, literally running amok with regard to, what on detailed examination, is a very sad and childish dogma. The price for this is simply far too high; the rules are there for a reason. As somebody put it to me once, both religion and penises have their uses, but that doesn’t give you the right to slap it out and wave it in front of my face.

  2. The renewables industry, and in particular the wind industry, have been remarkably successful in steering the narrative to date. Of course they are well resourced (by REFIT subsidies) and can afford to send highly paid lobbyists to represent their interests at every event at which such things are debated; contrast this with the individual concerned members of a diverse public who are obliged to respond in their own time at their own expense. The attendance and debate at the recent series of DCENR workshops on the Green Paper on Energy Policy was instructive in this regard.

    In one sense, the protests over wind farm development and the increased capacity electricity transmission pylons associated with them have played into the hands of the wind industry by creating an urban/rural divide by associating concerns with nimbyism. Perpetuating this narrow view is essential to those who wish to mask the true nature of the renewable energy scam.

    Stripped of all the noble sentiments, it is simply a wealth transfer mechanism.

    Transfer of wealth from the general population to a few speculative developers and the investment funds that take over the long term operation of the subsidy-milking utilities. We have in the recent past experienced such a wealth transfer; this has been well aired in the banking enquiry, and there cannot be a citizen who is unaware of the consequences that arose from that.

    It was not long ago that people were warned by leading public personages “not to talk down the economy”. The leading public personages of today espouse renewable energy to “save the planet”. Have our leaders of today hidden reserves of wisdom that were notably absent in the past? Somehow, I doubt it.

  3. What an excellent summary of the scam which is wind which we have no hesitation in sharing to our facebook page. Two excellent comments. Nigel de Haas is absolutely right when he says that there is a rural/urban divide; however as developers become greedier, and enabling officials more lax, turbines are being proposed nearer to urban communities – and as a consequence, those more urban folk are making their voices heard. The tide is turning, but at extraordinary cost to individuals, consumers, businesses and the economy.

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