Guest post by Robert Bradley, Master Resource
I have been studying the global warming debate from a physical scientific and political economy basis for 20 years. And I remain amazed at how the energy/climate alarmists will not concede (are ‘in denial’) that the human influence on climate can be positive, not only negative, from an ecological and economic perspective.
The work of leading climate economist Robert Mendelsohn calculates net positive externalities for much of the world from anthropogenic warming at the bottom of the canonic IPCC temperature range. And climate scientist Gerald North of Texas A&M convinced me that the models would eventually get to a warming range of 20C, plus or minus 0.250C, for a doubling of atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse gas in equilibrium. (Dr. North was my paid consultant back in my Enron days, tasked with helping me figure out just where the middle ground was in the contentious debate.)
Mendelsohn plus North: a net positive externality from manmade greenhouse gas emissions. And a win for fossil fuels even before getting to the political economy question of comparing ‘market failure’ against ‘government failure’ to evaluate the case for government intervention.
Now to the renewable energy debate online at The Economist magazine where I was invited to oppose the motion: “This house believes that subsidising renewable energy is a good way to wean the world off fossil fuels.”
In my opening statement, I argued that renewable energy was doomed by physics for reasons that were first comprehended by British economist W. S. Jevons in his 1865 classic, The Coal Question.
Noting the taxpayer and environmentalist backlash against wind and solar facilities, as well as the inability of intermittent energies to exist without fossil-fuel blending/firming, I found myself squarely back at the premise to the motion: that fossil fuels were bad.
With peak oil and peak gas waylaid by the shale revolution, and the statistics of less pollution alongside greater fossil-fuel usage, the question then got back to global warming (my rebuttal statement). My closing statement summed up my case for the increasing sustainability of fossil fuels, not only the failure of renewable energy.
Economist debate moderator, James Astill, is upset. After all, we should all know that the human influence on climate is severe and bad and government must do something! He complains:
In my previous offering, I confess I underestimated how relaxed our opposer, Robert Bradley, was about global warming. I thought he did not consider it a problem. It now seems he is rather in favour of it. “A moderately warmer and wetter world, natural or manmade,” Mr Bradley writes, “is arguably a better world.”
I said “moderate warming,” Sir. And I said “arguably,” Sir. Why is your world so black and white, and black in favor of energy statism? Given the public and political backlash against climate alarmism and forced energy transformation, and the very comments and voting cast in this forum, perhaps it is time to debate rather than assume.
This shows how far Mr Bradley has strayed from the question in hand: concerning the desirability, or otherwise, of subsidising renewables as a means to stop the world burning fossil fuels. I do not blame him exactly. It stands to reason that no one untroubled by the prospect of global warming would bother himself with wonky, expensive renewables. But, alas, that does not describe this house. It assumes that a way to get the world off fossil fuels must be found.
Astill is missing the energy forest for the politically correct trees. Compared to dilute, intermittent, and environmentally invasive wind and solar power, fossil fuels are socially advantageous. And even assuming high climate sensitivity to GHG forcing, ‘market failure’ must be balanced with ‘analytical failure’ and with ‘government failure.’ No more assuming the problem, the solution, and perfect government implementation of the ‘solution.’ The era of magical energy postmodernism must end!
I invite readers of WUWT to visit, read, and vote. I like my case. As I conclude my final statement: “The best energy future belongs to the efficient and to the free.”
Realism and optimism, anyone?