Polly Toynbee: Cancelling British Renewable Subsidies Destroyed the Industry


Guest essay by Eric Worrall

Polly Toynbee, the voice of the Liberal British establishment, thinks just as wind and solar became economic, the British government destroyed the industry by pulling the subsidies. My question – what is her definition of “economic”?

Climate change will affect all of us. So why the lack of urgency?

From Trump to Brexit, we are all fixated on more immediate news stories. We need to look at the bigger picture.

Tomorrow the world shudders as Donald Trump becomes US president. Hopes that wise advisers would mitigate the erratic, half-crazed stream of contradictions pouring from his lips have been dashed as he picks fake news purveyors and climate change-deniers for his close consiglieri.

With climate change doubters moving into the White House, the Guardian is spending 24 hours focusing on the issue – and what we can all do to help save the planet.

One problem: it’s hard for politicians, commentators and the public to worry about several things at once. The high-octane anxiety over Trump and Brexit absorbs all political energy: fear-fatigue can’t accommodate too much at once. Climate change is background noise, the slow roll of distant thunder. Like anyone not a denier, I am always aware of it and sometimes add “and climate change” to the list of monster crises ahead. Getting it right to the forefront of the brain, ahead of everything else, forcing politicians and public to put planet survival first, second and third in their priorities, that’s the great task.

The trouble with climate change as a political issue is that it’s too big to grasp, too ever-present. An occasional fixed point of global decision – the dramatic last-minute signing of the Paris climate change deal – briefly flashes up on the political grid, but once over, it falls back as if done and dusted. The planet is heating up fast – but not fast enough for the hungry 24-hour news cycle.

Outright climate misinformation from people in authority is hugely effective: surely no minister would be so bold-faced? Besides, who doesn’t yearn for the discovery that it was all a mistake, what Trump calls a “hoax” and we are not about to boil, drown and freeze after all? A very little denial lie goes a long way, right round the world. Some, like ExxonMobil are venal, others are mad ideologists of the right who see green politics as a socialist plot or tree-hugging virtue-signalling. If they were serious, the precautionary principle would say, even if warming turns out less bad than feared, the cost of avoiding it is peanuts weighed against the high risk of human annihilation.

What an opportunity was lost post-crash for a great green Keynesian investment surge in home insulation and new boilers, alongside a massive renewables push for wind, solar, tidal and nuclear power, with better public transport. Instead, no sooner did onshore wind become economic than its subsidies were taken away by Cameron; and just as solar was on the verge of success, George Osborne’s drastic cut in solar subsidy last year wrecked an industry, causing thousands of jobs to be lost.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2017/jan/19/climate-change-affect-all-urgency-trump-brexit

Toynbee seems to think only special people like herself can worry about the future, can take a long term view – it’s hard for politicians, commentators and the public to worry about several things at once. Perhaps you also need Toynbee’s special viewpoint, to be able to claim with a straight face that yanking a subsidy can wreck an industry which is successful and economic.

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January 20, 2017 2:57 am

“Toynbee seems to think only special people like herself can worry about the future” says it all. It’s all about virtue signalling. Group Think. Staying on Message. Staying on Message. Sigh.

Reply to  rms
January 20, 2017 6:30 am

Outright climate misinformation from people in authority is hugely effective:

This belief probably explains why they are spending 24h spreading climate misinformation.
Millions of refugees flooding into Europe does not seem enough to shake them out of their stupid ideological fantasy and realise that the festering war in a large part of the middle east and Africa, people getting bombed, gased, beheaded and maimed has a way diverting attention from failed scientific hypothesis about what may or may not happen in a hundred years time.
If “climate change” is supposed to be happening “here and now” clearly there are bigger issues that need dealing with.

Reply to  rms
January 20, 2017 6:38 am

Instead, no sooner did onshore wind become economic than its subsidies were taken away by Cameron;

Well if it was just becoming economic what would be the reason for continuing subsidies? If it is economic and technically viable it is now in a position to get adopted.

richard verney
Reply to  Greg
January 20, 2017 10:11 am

My thought, as soon as I read that comment.

Bryan A
Reply to  Greg
January 20, 2017 10:12 am

Agreed…anything that requires continual subsidization to retain economic viability, obviously isn’t economically viable (and NO not charging a Carbon Tax that never existed isn’t a form of subsidy)

UK Sceptic
Reply to  Greg
January 21, 2017 12:55 pm

No one capable of joined-up thought processes ever accused Toynbee, a card carrying cultural Marxist, of being logical. Her cognitive dissonance shield filters out anything approaching critical thinking.

Reply to  rms
January 20, 2017 8:01 am

Liberals seem to have different definition of “economic” than do the rest of us.
Their definition seems to be along the lines of, “as long as the government has enough money for it”.
Of course, since the government can print money, it always has “enough money”.

Reply to  rms
January 20, 2017 8:01 am

The hallmark of the progressive is the nexus of arrogance and ignorance

( me )
How can they be so tone deaf as to not recognize the irony of citing ” fake news purveyors” ?

Roger Knights
Reply to  Bob Armstrong
January 20, 2017 8:04 am


January 20, 2017 3:01 am

Off piste but every comment from the Guardian pre and post Brexit as to what will happen has not happened.
They have form in being totally wrong.

Reply to  englandrichard
January 20, 2017 4:02 am

The pound has lost 20% of it’s value, I think that was forecast. Exports have increased due to a weak pound, but when the cost of imported raw material filters through things may get more difficult. Trump will offer the UK a trade deal, on his terms. Lets review things in a year after we have implemented article 50 before we judge how accurate predictions were.

Reply to  Gareth Phillips
January 20, 2017 4:32 am

It was flagged up that the UK was the most overvalued currency in the world back in 2014 so it would have fallen eventually.
The big problem is the Euro being 20% overvalued for France, Italy, Portugal and Greece and there is nothing they can do about it.

Reply to  Gareth Phillips
January 20, 2017 5:02 am

Gareth, you show that your grasp of business economics isn’t great. The cost of raw materials is a part of a product’s cost. Companies are worrying about wages, production-energy costs, etc. With a low pound, the product becomes more competitive, and is thus sold in greater numbers – negating the increased cost of the raw materials. The pound was over-valued.

Reply to  Gareth Phillips
January 20, 2017 5:27 am

England now has the fastest growing first world economy @2% annual growth. Seems like Brexit didn’t hurt much.

Tim Hammond
Reply to  Gareth Phillips
January 20, 2017 6:50 am

No, there were plenty of predictions about immediate consequences, and we can judge those now – all wrong.
Yes, sterling has fallen, but the BoE cut rates, and said we need more QE. So without those unnecessary actions, sterling would not have fallen anywhere near as far. And everybody knows Brexit is coming, so rational people – which is what the forecasts assume – would now be cutting investment and spending if they think Brexit is going to be bad. Yet they are not.
Ergo, unless somehow those same people not doing what they were forecast to do suddenly start doing something else entirely, despite no new information, the forecasts will be wrong.

Go read a chart
Reply to  Gareth Phillips
January 20, 2017 7:33 am

The pound “lost” more between its 5-year peak and the Brexit vote as it has since. Astonishingly, remainers didn’t even seem to notice any “difficult” outcomes from that pre-referendum decline.

Reply to  englandrichard
January 20, 2017 4:31 am

Like the climate alarmists, they have an arsenal of excuses. In this case, they will claim that they are right and the timing is just wrong. Things will turn out badly in the end. Their predictions are non-falsifiable and they are not accountable for their wrong predictions.

Reply to  englandrichard
January 20, 2017 6:50 am

Englandrichard said:
“,,, but every comment from the Guardian pre and post Brexit as to what will happen has not happened.
They have form in being totally wrong.”
Exactly right Richard – and so have the global warming alarmists been entirely WRONG in their dire predictions.
Global warming hysteria is NOT a scientific reality – it is a false religious belief cherished by fanatics who have NO scientific competence. I say this because their predictive track record is perfectly negative – every one of their scary predictions has failed to materialize.
In comparison, here is our predictive track record from 2002. It’s good – 8/8 in those countries that adopted the full measure of global warming mania.

January 20, 2017 3:07 am

When a climate prediction actually comes true, then many predictions consistently comes true, people will naturally start to listen. Otherwise, no.

Reply to  Donald Kasper
January 20, 2017 6:39 am

If you wait long enough, pretty much all predictions come true.

Robin Hewitt
January 20, 2017 3:11 am

Someone should tell Rampton Offshore Wind Ltd because they still seem to be planting turbines on the seaward horizon off Brighton. Brighton elected the UK’s one and only Green MP, Caroline Lucas, so they rather deserve all they get. Dashed inconvenient for the rest of us because they keep closing Newhaven swing bridge to move the infrastructure and there is only one coast road.

January 20, 2017 3:14 am

The Grauniad is an echo chamber for those who cannot listen.

Reply to  AleaJactaEst
January 20, 2017 4:03 am

A bit like our our very own site then!

Phil C
Reply to  Gareth Phillips
January 20, 2017 4:18 am

I read WUWT, the Gaurdian, listen to National Public Radio, and read the Wall Street Journal. With a fairly balanced, broad view it isn’t the hard kernels of fact fall out of the cloud of doublethink and the chaff blows away on the wind.

Reply to  Gareth Phillips
January 20, 2017 6:33 am

rt.com is my antidote the Guardian. In fact, I read it first.

Reply to  Gareth Phillips
January 20, 2017 6:40 am

Wow, there is nobody here who disagrees?
I didn’t know that.
Griff, Gareth, seaice, Phil. etc, they are just figments of our collective imaginations?
Or a simpler explanation. You’re an idiot.

Tim Hammond
Reply to  Gareth Phillips
January 20, 2017 6:51 am

Is the “our our” the echo?!

Paul Penrose
Reply to  Gareth Phillips
January 20, 2017 7:21 am

The moment any dissent is aggressively squashed here by the moderators, you will be right. Until then, the fact that you are tolerated here proves you wrong.

Reply to  Gareth Phillips
January 20, 2017 7:31 am

Yes Mark
I’m imaginary.
Or possibly your conscience speaking to you…

Reply to  Gareth Phillips
January 20, 2017 8:03 am

Griffiepoo, you should really sign up for a course on reading comprehension.
At no point did I claim that you were imaginary.

Bryan A
Reply to  Gareth Phillips
January 20, 2017 10:19 am

Sorry Mark
But I think Griffypoo got you on that point

January 20, 2017 at 6:40 am
Wow, there is nobody here who disagrees?
I didn’t know that.
Griff, Gareth, seaice, Phil. etc, they are just figments of our collective imaginations?
Or a simpler explanation. You’re an idiot.

Reply to  Gareth Phillips
January 20, 2017 2:44 pm

“Or possibly your conscience speaking to you…”
What would you know of conscience, Grifter?
You are about the most conscience-free poster on any climate blog anywhere.
Have you apologised to Dr.Crockford for lying about her professional qualifications yet?

January 20, 2017 3:15 am

“With climate change doubters moving into the White House, the Guardian is spending 24 hours focusing on the issue – and what we can all do to help save the planet.”
…and Jesus wept, what a waste of 24 hours of God given life…

Reply to  Ben D
January 20, 2017 4:07 am

One the weaknesses of the Guardian is that is focus on a subject can turn into an fanaticism on a single view of that subject . To the stage that no matter what the evidence they regard A VIEW has being unquestionable right and one that must be defended to the death . AGW is typical of that , they have virtual handing over the coverage of this issue to Cook and friends and have simply no problem with lying in it in the name of ‘the cause ‘ . It helps that they are the ‘go to’ people for WWF , Greenpace etc when it comes to spreading ‘news ‘ these organizations want out there , that there is bit of revolving door between those working this paper and those doing the PR for green organizations.
In short in this are this is a paper simply not to be trusted has it long give up any journalistic integrate it had on the subject .

Paul Penrose
Reply to  knr
January 20, 2017 7:25 am

This is, in fact, the face of “journalism” today. They are no longer collectors and presenters of fact, but activists promoting their favorite cause. Basically all “news” is now the opinion section.

Reply to  knr
January 20, 2017 7:56 am

Penrose, I cannot agree more. Every article is an opinion passed off as “news analysis”. We used to call that propaganda.
What ever happened to the 5 “w’s” that were supposed to be in the first sentence? If any facts are even mentioned they may be near the end after they have spewed all their supposition.

January 20, 2017 3:18 am

Interesting – talking about everyday fear. I have spent almost 50 years on this planet and have not a SINGLE day worried about the climate or weather despite being for weeks in extreme situations of a) very cold (>-40degC) or very hot (>40degC) environments. However, I have COUNTLESS days and weeks during which I worried and still worry about the amount of taxes, food costs, about proper shelter and accommodation, and our health system. I worry about the rising food prices and our everyday bills for commodities and what the government is collecting. I also worry about the amount of drugs circulating around our kids and how we will manage to pay for education. The amount of domestic violence and abuse we hear about around us. Interestingly, she thinks there is a fearfactor from the Trump presidency. I am more worried about other “leaders” who squander hard earned money on “uneconomic” things or introduce more taxes or make life more expensive such as we see in Australia, Germany, Canada, Sweden, Denmark, than a hopefully economic-thinking new US president. Stop creating fear and do some positive outlooking!

Dave Ward
Reply to  AnotherQlder
January 20, 2017 3:30 am

Spot on!

Reply to  AnotherQlder
January 20, 2017 3:49 am

(+++) x 10^10000000…..

Reply to  Phillip Bratby
January 20, 2017 4:22 am

I’ll add a plus one. Qldr has a great point. Strategic thinking has its place, it only has a purpose when when it matches the facts on the ground.

January 20, 2017 3:19 am

“Besides, who doesn’t yearn for the discovery that it was all a mistake, what Trump calls a “hoax” and we are not about to boil, drown and freeze after all?”
Hey. Guess what. That’s right.

Reply to  gary@erko
January 20, 2017 3:57 am

Many of us have thought exactly that for years but when we try and get the word out we’re shut down by people like Polly. If they ever listen and accept it then it means their belief system is kaput.
That’s a very real conundrum for these people.

Thomas Homer
Reply to  nigelf
January 20, 2017 5:50 am

“That’s a very real conundrum for these people.”
This is an extremely valid point. Such a vast number of people are so invested in their belief that Carbon Dioxide should be feared, and it will be difficult for them to admit they’re wrong. Is it possible to craft a viable path for these people to accept the truth?
Sound science will prevail. Carbon based life forms require carbon, and all of the carbon in all organic (living) material can be traced back to Carbon Dioxide.

Thomas Homer
Reply to  nigelf
January 20, 2017 6:22 am

“Faced with the choice between changing one’s mind and proving that there is no need to do so, almost everyone gets busy on the proof. ”
John Kenneth Galbraith

Brent Hargreaves
Reply to  gary@erko
January 20, 2017 4:21 am

Toynbee should spend less time “yearning” and more time researching the facts. Lefties like her get their opinions from the opinions of others. In contrast, we sons of Galileo go in search of evidence and only then reach our conclusions.

Mickey Reno
Reply to  gary@erko
January 20, 2017 5:28 am

Yet another ignorant Graun pronouncement. Prominent climate “scientists” are on record as preferring disaster over being wrong about their scientific prognostications. Phil Jones, then the head of CRU:

If anything, I would like to see the climate change happen, so the science could be proved right, regardless of the consequences. This isn’t being political, it is being selfish. Cheers, Phil

Many leftist politicians and media types have openly said that even if the science is wrong, crippling the fossil fuel industry is still the right thing to do, blithely assuming that no harm will come to people from forcing otherwise pointless energy poverty upon them. What a bunch of stupid rummies. What a stupid reporter.

January 20, 2017 3:20 am

I don’t think Polly is really a green, this is just another excuse to bash those evil Tories, she has had a very good living in austerity Britain from her visceral hatred of the rich and privileged, despite being one herself.

Reply to  climanrecon
January 20, 2017 5:04 am

Polly parrot…? (Just echoing the other greens).

Reply to  climanrecon
January 23, 2017 5:14 am

Not forgetting her villa in Umbria, or is it Tuscany? Not something us mere mortals can afford eh climanrecon. As ever it’s one rule for them and an entirely different set of rules for us plebs. That total twit Prince Charles is a perfect example in point. He should spend more time talking to his flowers.

January 20, 2017 3:21 am

Toynbee is a complete oaf, another one SO worried about global warming that she has a huge carbon footprint herself

Mark from the Midwest
January 20, 2017 3:28 am

In the words of Daryl Johnson, (former fullback for the Dallas Cowboys, and color commentator for CBS), “WOW!, WOW!, WOW!” …

January 20, 2017 3:31 am

Is she so worried she’s sold her Tuscan villa?

Mark from the Midwest
January 20, 2017 3:42 am

Among the executive orders that Trump will sign later today, (from a pretty reliable source)…
“all Cabinet departments will disclose and forestall any work related to initiatives to curb carbon emissions.”
Now Ms Toynbee can go into full panic mode, Xanax please!

Reply to  Mark from the Midwest
January 20, 2017 4:31 am

Mark, I hope your source is right.

January 20, 2017 3:47 am

Polly Toynbee has always been divorced from reality. Whatever she has ever said, you can assume the opposite.

Harry Passfield
Reply to  Phillip Bratby
January 20, 2017 7:09 am


Polly Toynbee has always been divorced from reality

Yep, the divorce was based on 5 years separation (no consent required) and Unreasonable behaviour.

Bryan A
Reply to  Harry Passfield
January 20, 2017 10:23 am

I thought that the divorce was granted due to Irreconcilable Differences between the Data input and the Model Output

January 20, 2017 3:50 am

“Another proposed executive order would require all Cabinet departments to disclose and pause current work being done in connection with Obama’s initiatives to curb carbon emissions to combat climate change.”

Chris Wright
January 20, 2017 3:53 am

Today’s Daily Telegraph has a front page report about Prince Charles. He wrote the forward for a new climate change book from Ladybird, a book series for children. It was written by a climate doom monger. They claim the book was “peer reviewed” to ensure it is factually correct. What’s the betting that all the reviewers were fellow members of the climate change cult?
It would be interesting to see a sceptical review of the book. If it is – as seems likely – climate change propaganda aimed specifically at children, then it is truly disgusting.
A few years ago a group of parents launched a legal bid to stop Gore’s propaganda film being shown in UK schools. They were partially successful. The legal ruling was this: if a school intended to show the film they must inform the children of a list of untruths in the film.
If this book, like Gore’s film, is propaganda and does contain untruths, I hope there will be a similar legal challenge. To target children with propaganda is about as low as you can get, and hopefully it is illegal.

January 20, 2017 3:58 am

Like with all Climate related Doom and Destiny talk, predictions will someday come true, renewable’s were about to become economic, taxation and lifestyle will be beneficial for mankind, there is no alternative (for you). The only reason you cannot reason or understand, you are too simpleton to think for yourself, only people in power can think for the for you. The only way to resolve ‘their’ problems if for you to do it for them, through your actions, not theirs. If you question the message they call you names, you are a denier, a racist, a xenophobe, a ‘deplorable’. If something fails it is because someone else did not do something correctly. If they don’t get their way, they spit anger, cry, wail, blame everyone else, then isolate themselves in a cocoon of moral superiority. I see it time and time again.
As an outsider, it is very interesting behavior to observe, even entertaining at times. I would love to call this the “You” syndrome. Just need to make it into a acronym.

January 20, 2017 3:58 am

Its true in a way , any industry can do well when endless bags of free cash are throw at it , and subside farming is the easiest type of farming you can do . Once once these have gone the industry will have problems . But is different to saying this a ‘bad thing ‘

January 20, 2017 4:04 am

I wonder if all energy production of whatever type have had subsidies withdrawn?

Harry Passfield
Reply to  Gareth Phillips
January 20, 2017 6:17 am

Oh dear. Yawn….

Bryan A
Reply to  Harry Passfield
January 20, 2017 10:33 am

Since SCC is a new invention and hasn’t been historically charged as a tax, not charging it can’t be considered a subsidy. Subsidies are either from existing charges that aren’t passed on to make something more cost competitive, or a government chipping in Tax $$s to lower the cost of something to make it more competitive. So, given that definition, by all means immediately end ALL subsidization from the federal government and spend our tax dollars on better things. Or better yet, stop the billions in subsidies and refund that tax money post haste

Reply to  Gareth Phillips
January 20, 2017 6:45 am

Not this lie again?

Tim Hammond
Reply to  Gareth Phillips
January 20, 2017 6:54 am

Not taxing things is not a subsidy. Are say children’s clothes in the UK subsidised because they don’t have VAT?

Reply to  Tim Hammond
January 20, 2017 3:18 pm

So what do you call it when cities waive taxes to lure TV producers to their localles?

Paul Penrose
Reply to  Gareth Phillips
January 20, 2017 7:38 am

Real subsidies, or fake ones like programs to provide energy to the poor, or buying oil for the US Strategic Oil Reserve?

John F. Hultquist
Reply to  Gareth Phillips
January 20, 2017 10:25 am

Gareth, “I wonder …
Why wonder. Just get busy. Define the terms, such as the difference between subsidies, loans, grants, tax credits, capitalized or expensed business costs, required energy purchase laws, and more.
Then list the energy production activities and their characteristics, such as energy produced, reliability, dispatchable or not, land use** needs, and so. Numbers need to be raw and levelized because of the differences in the absolute magnatudes of the industries.
Make a table with rows and columns, fill it in. Post it. We will be appreciative.
**Land use: For some reason I always am curious about the land use component. For example how many units of land are needed for wind turbines compared to the acres for an equal-producing nuclear facility and the mine for the ore? For a coal facility? For a Combined-Cycle Natural Gas Plant?

Ian Macdonald
January 20, 2017 4:11 am

Funny how they are so hysterical when a startup industry which made bold claims for its products fails to meet those claims and has the financial plug pulled, yet not a tear is shed in Westminster or Holyrood over the destruction of the shipbuilding, coal mining or fishing industries. Slightly bigger industries that employed just a few more people.
That said, what about all those with job applications submitted to the shale gas industry who probably got told, “We’ll keep your name on file until the protests cease and we get the go-ahead to drill.”

Patrick MJD
Reply to  Ian Macdonald
January 20, 2017 5:50 pm

Here in Australia the state (Victoria I think) and federal Govn’ts have just given an aluminium smelter (Alcoa) millions of $$’s to remain in business protecting thousands of jobs for 4 years. One reason cited was energy costs. Given the fact that coal fired power stations are being closed and are plan to be closed it’s no wonder this subsidy was granted.
Pity those workers in 4 years time.

January 20, 2017 4:15 am

Toynbee, like the rest of the Green Brigade, lefty politicians. and the renewable energy suppliers continually talk of “savings” and how cheap renewable energy is becoming, but out of ignorance or simple misinformation mean savings for them and not their customers. They all conveniently ignore the fact that wind and solar power is not a base load power supply, i.e. not a supply that provides power when needed, but power when available. When there is no/low wind or no/low sun then wind turbines and solar panels cannot meet current power demands and as such these renewable power supplies – if provided, also require almost equal capacity of standby base load power which is run inefficiently and thus very expensively simply to maintain power supplies by interfacing and accommodating current and capriciously varying under capacity outputs from WT’s and SP’s.
In the UK, independent studies called for by the government determined that only Gas Turbines have the flexibility and ability to provide this back up facility. We now have the unbelievable situation that Wind Turbine and Solar Panel operators require subsidies to make them commercially viable, and also require extended and additional Power Transmission works to feed SP, and particularly WT power from their remote sites to areas of actual power demand. The GT back up suppliers require subsidies to make their operations commercially viable – operating inefficiently at under capacity and intermittently. In addition, with WT’s as an example, the GT standbys within a WT/GT standby base load system produce as much as 75% of their overall system power output – all with their own CO2 emissions, i.e. even if CO2 emission reductions are needed this is a grossly inefficient system. The UK also imposes priority use of WT’s where output is available. The overall systems’ costs using WT’s are massively more, particularly now as gas prices are much lower. Toynbee talks of Carbon Capture – it was abandoned simply because no viable or remotely cost effective and reliable system has been provided. If one was available, even at R&D prototype stage, don’t you think the coal mine owners, let alone the Green Brigade and Renewable Energy Suppliers would be queuing up to invest?
You couldn’t dream up anything even more bizarre and unbelievable. Power Suppliers should be required to provide only base load systems, which may or may not include renewables such as WT’s and SP’s; let the Suppliers choose simply by forcing them to do investment analyses of such overall system works and not cherry pick the renewable power generation elements in isolation. Subsidies, in all forms, should also be cancelled and then the market will decide in what is a cost-leadership commodity market. Pressures will be put on Suppliers to cut costs and drive down prices and, if renewables are needed, they would have to spend on R&D for base load renewable systems in order to maintain market share and even to survive.
The fracking experience in the USA which gave cheaper gas prices and led to significant CO2 emission reductions was the result of such free market pressures – coal fired plants couldn’t compete and were shut down.

Questing Vole
Reply to  macawber
January 20, 2017 4:47 pm

The fruits of 30 years of UK energy policy can be seen on the gridwatch.templar site: on a grey, still working day in winter the nuclear, gas and (remaining) coal plant can be working flat out, with the whole system close to the red zone. But the grid has to be configured to absorb the unpredictable contributions from expensive, subsidised wind and solar, while gas and coal stations have to accept being taken down when the wind blows or the sun shines. It is hard to think of a less efficient way to supply energy to a 21st century economy.

January 20, 2017 4:16 am

You could lie on the beach all day and you still would not dream up a name like Polly Toynbee.

Mark from the Midwest
Reply to  toorightmate
January 20, 2017 4:27 am

depends on the neurological lubricants that one has at hand

Mark from the Midwest
Reply to  toorightmate
January 20, 2017 4:30 am

on second thought we could develop a musical around this, a neurotic liberal by the name of Polly… after all, if someone can produce a musical titled “Che” why can’t we give it a shot?

Paul Penrose
Reply to  toorightmate
January 20, 2017 7:41 am

It is childish to make light of someone’s name.

Reply to  Paul Penrose
January 20, 2017 9:34 am

Paul, that’s a thorny point,
Yes it was bad enough being born into the ‘Save energy’ family, but as the first born they then gave me the christian name ‘1’,

Reply to  Paul Penrose
January 20, 2017 3:35 pm

Are you aware that there is park named after you in far western NSW (Australia)?

January 20, 2017 4:16 am

Storage will be solved before the power density problem, and it’s anybody’s guess when the storage nut will be cracked.

Reply to  kim
January 20, 2017 4:21 am

Oh, yeah, raptor and bat deaths, infrasound, horrendously warped environment in either solar or windmill mass applications. Boutique, yeah, forever, even mebbe chic in the deepest hearts darkly off the grid.

January 20, 2017 4:17 am

Polly Toynbee is often referred to as the doyen of the UK’s political left, with a reputation that precedes her undoubted writing skills. The truth is she’s been wrong on almost every major call, from the euro single currency and the European Union to UK domestic policy on all manner of issues. If ‘La Toynbee’ is for something, back the other side to ensure you’re onto a sure-fire winner.
Oh, and despite the loveable grandma next door looks the woman is absolute poison to anyone who doesn’t share her worldview. Contributors to a ‘climate denier’ site like WUWT will be rated just above killers of week old puppies but behind her most hated adversaries on planet earth, the ‘vile Tories’. (That’s the UK Conservative party) Once she gets behind a keyboard or microphone the woman is absolutely horrific.

Reply to  CheshireRed
January 20, 2017 4:37 pm

In other words a “climate shrill”.

Leo Smith
Reply to  CheshireRed
January 21, 2017 11:03 am

Polly Toynbee? Think Janet Daley and remove all common sense…

January 20, 2017 4:18 am

I dub this the Era of Extreme Hyperbole
I can’t believe that anyone could utter or write this sentence without cracking a smile:

If they were serious, the precautionary principle would say, even if warming turns out less bad than feared, the cost of avoiding it is peanuts weighed against the high risk of human annihilation.

That’s when you know “they” don’t really care about science, despite protestations of “scientific denial” & “venal” corporations.

Tim Hammond
Reply to  lorcanbonda
January 20, 2017 7:02 am

It’s a totally illogical statement. If something has a “high risk of human annihilation” you don’t apply the precautionary principle! You avoid it as best you can.
Toynbee and others utterly misuse the Precautionary Principle. It only really works when the cost of not doing a new thing is known and low i.e. the status quo is acceptable. It has no value as a tool where you have two choices, both of which are (or maybe) extremely costly.
As usual, Toynbee spouts pseudo scientific, pseudo logical nonsense.

Reply to  Tim Hammond
January 20, 2017 8:31 am

I’m just waiting for someone to calculate the level of risk of human annihilation. Exactly how much risk is a high risk?
“… even if warming turns out less bad than feared … ” — I thought that is why we spent billions of dollars on research over the past thirty years: make decisions based on data rather than fears. This complete lack of self-awareness is a tenet of the Era of Extreme Hyperbole

January 20, 2017 4:58 am

Does anybody know if they still subsidize wood pellets to generate electricity?

Reply to  joel
January 20, 2017 8:49 am

I believe that the English power station Drax has shifted from coal to “biomass”, i.e. wood pellets made from purposefully cut down trees in these United States. It is a subsidy for wood pellets and it is insanity. http://tinyurl.com/od9t4rz

Leo Smith
Reply to  joel
January 21, 2017 11:05 am

yes, they do
drax 2 in the uK

Bruce Cobb
January 20, 2017 4:59 am

She has an uncanny knack for calling a spade a hippopotamus. Remarkable.

January 20, 2017 5:02 am

The artificial green blight was deemed not viable and Planned early in its evolution. Poetic.

Nigel S
January 20, 2017 5:16 am

Polly got into Oxford with very low exam grades and then dropped out so she has some expertise on being promoted beyond the bounds of reality.
From Wiki
‘After attending Badminton School, a girls’ independent school in Bristol, followed by the Holland Park School, a state comprehensive school in London (she had failed the 11-plus examination [for entry to the top level of state schooling]) she passed one A-level. She won a scholarship to read history at St Anne’s College, Oxford, but dropped out of university after eighteen months.

Nigel S
Reply to  Nigel S
January 20, 2017 5:20 am

She did say something sensible once which produced this excellent response from ‘ludocrat’ in Guardian comments.
Guardian comment by ludocrat
Old man:
I have seen
Hours dreadful and things strange; but this sore night
Hath trifled former knowings…
‘Tis unnatural,
Even like the deed that’s done. On Tuesday last,
A falcon, towering in her pride of place,
Was by a mousing owl hawk’d at and kill’d.
And then, ev’n in that unholy rain,
That fell and fell and made winter of lost summer,
Mad Polly was heard to talk some sense …
We are seriously doomed.

John M. Ware
Reply to  Nigel S
January 20, 2017 9:43 am

Is she Lady Macbeth? Or one of the Three Weird Sisters?

Patrick MJD
Reply to  Nigel S
January 20, 2017 5:57 pm

She failed the 11-plus?! WOW! Just WOW!

Reply to  Patrick MJD
January 23, 2017 5:49 am

Yeah, well, look on it as the start of a continuing trend. She’s failed to get anything right.

January 20, 2017 5:33 am

The obvious, but unspoken, reason “climate deniers” get listened to, which the article tries mightily
to ignore, is the lack of global warming that has lasted almost a quarter of a century. I mean, c’mon alarmists, at least admit the patently obvious. Polly is what an actual “climate denier” looks like.
If she actually knew anything about the future of energy, and molten salt reactors, one version being developed by her own countrymen at Moltex, she would cut out the crap about wind and solar. And electric cars are literally right around the corner as well. She is arguing for crappy low carbon solutions. mostly because she’s one ignorant bigmouth. I mean, blaming Exxon-Mobil, for Christ’s sake!!! Why not the Easter Bunny as well? A really, really, stupid woman.

January 20, 2017 5:55 am

Everything Polly says or predicts is wrong. You can bet 100% on the opposite. The only thing that makes me cringe, is a picture of her standing next to an old friend of mine, who is now the Vice -Chancellor of the University of Kent.

January 20, 2017 5:58 am

“The trouble with climate change as a political issue is that it’s too big to grasp, too ever-present.”
You can say that again sister. Masters and mistresses of the double entendre they are.

January 20, 2017 5:58 am

Toynbee fails to understand that the cuts to subsidies were a direct consequence of the bizarre manner in which subsidy levels are engineered.
A sensible system would aim to maximize the CO2 reduction acheived per £ of subsidy spent.
The UK subsidy system is not designed upon that basis.
Here in the UK, subsidies were designed such that any technology, no matter how expensive or inefficient would provide a financial return (originally intended to be 8% p.a.)
Hence, subsidy rates for inefficient or basically useless technologies are high and subsidy rates for cost-effective and efficient technologies can be non-existent.
What this was intended to achieve in the minds of the morons who designed it, will probably never be fully understood.
But – clearly – what it does achieve is to use public money to guide the market in the direction of making the very worst decisions and wasting as much money as possible on the least possible effective action in cutting CO2.
Eventually, the system failed so badly that it developed into the farce of the N.I. renewable heat scandal, in which people were being paid a subsidy to burn as large a quantity of wood pellets as they could conceivably burn – with scant attention paid to what they were then doing with the heat.
This then created an incentive for individuals to install pellet boilers and run them in empty barns or heating a continual flow of hot water which would be dispense of down a drain.
The public are seemingly unaware that they have been the victim of a comedy of errors.
It is possible that the ordinary mind can simply not comprehend this level of stupidity, and therefore mistakes it all for a work of genius.

Reply to  indefatigablefrog
January 20, 2017 8:22 am

I agree, at least in part. Subsidies have often not been directed appropriately and should, as you say aim to maximize the CO2 reduction achieved per £ of subsidy spent. The statement “no sooner did onshore wind become economic than its subsidies were taken away by Cameron;” makes no sense, because you don’t need to subsidise things that are already economic. The N.I renewable heat initiative was a complete disaster of a policy and that should have been obvious at the start.
This is of course entirely separate from the arguments about the science and reality of global warming, about which I disagree with most here.

Reply to  seaice1
January 20, 2017 9:09 am

Yeah, a flat carbon tax introduced incrementally would have incentivized adopting of energy-saving measured and efficient alternative generation – without producing the wasteful perverse incentives witnessed during the last two decades of farce.
Even if we ultimately settle upon a low estimate or equilibrium climate sensitivity, or derate some of the associated concerns – there’s nothing wrong with conserving a valuable shared resource and generating public taxes in the process.
Wasting stuff, was never a good idea.
And congratulations to you – for sticking around here and giving as good as you get.
It’s not a discussion, if everyone blindly agrees.

Reply to  seaice1
January 20, 2017 9:38 am

frog, I agree (:-))

Ed zuiderwijk
January 20, 2017 5:59 am

Polly loves to claim the moral high ground. But one should read the acid comments of the sad lady whose husband she misappropriated to figure out what really to think of Polly’s goodiness. It’s Polly is always right and Polly comes first.

January 20, 2017 6:00 am

Worse kind of champagne socialist. Do as I say, not as I do.
Champions state eduction, whilst sending her kids to private schools.
Champions the poor, whilst living in luxury.
Champions climate change, whilst jetting off to her villa in Tuscany.

Walt D.
January 20, 2017 6:26 am

Basic economic principle – if you want to stifle innovation in a new technology, subsidize it. When the subsidy is withdrawn the new industry fails.
Interesting to see what happens to the ethanol subsidy in the US.

January 20, 2017 6:29 am

As far as I can see, Polly Toynbee illustrates a kind of genetic regression to the mean, with grandiosity and disdain for evidence being the dominant and surviving family traits. Lord save us from those brought up on communes started by the rich and famous.

Alan Watt, Climate Denialist Level 7
January 20, 2017 6:39 am

Perhaps you also need Toynbee’s special viewpoint, to be able to claim with a straight face that yanking a subsidy can wreck an industry which is successful and economic.

It’s not special to Toynbee; it is common failing of government officials and academics to accept the way free markets actually work: you have to produce genuine value which meets or beats the competition.
Politicians also love to describe every new spending program as “investing in our future”.

January 20, 2017 7:01 am

It’s just that subsidies have become the new form of government welfare.

Tim Hammond
January 20, 2017 7:11 am

“…the erratic, half-crazed stream of contradictions pouring from his lips…”
Er, the entire piece is a half-crazed stream of contradictions from Toynbee’s fevered brain.We are boiling and freezing and drowning (boiling? Does she know temperature that implies?). Economic industries collapse when their subsidies are taken away. We risk annihilation. She talks about a Keynesian surge of investment, yet never called for a Keynesian surplus during good times, but the opposite, more state spending.
Climate change is “background noise” but also “too ever-present”. We have to put “planet survival” first, second and third. What?
Truly, an example of how liberals have gone more than a little bit mad.

michael hart
January 20, 2017 7:24 am

I think the good news is that there must be no Klimate Kool-Aid left: Polly Toynbee has clearly drunk all of it.

January 20, 2017 7:31 am

Subsidies take from one sector of the economy and insert them into another sector and the taxpayer pays the difference.
That’s why Polly’s claim that wind and solar are just becoming economical is only possible by using subsidies. It’s laughable!

January 20, 2017 7:45 am

I think it all comes down to this: If they’re wrong – and their opposition is neither evil, nor irrational, nor ignorant and possibly right about a few things – then there’s nothing special about them.
And that can’t be.
Because they are oh, so special.

Crispin in Waterloo
January 20, 2017 7:57 am

So it is no longer “stronger and more frequent storms”, it is “human annihilation”. Perhaps the annihilation is of the utter bias in the media that the bunk busters bring. Once the media cannot control ‘the message’ the bunk busting bombshells will start doing their work. The only shriek left will be to claim that the solar system will be annihilated is we don’t elect the right party and fund the right technologies. The author is preaching to the choir because the pews are emptying.
Bunk busters. I like it – describes both people and facts.

David Pritt
January 20, 2017 8:38 am

Dave in Hampshire, England
6500 highly subsidise windmills are producing less than 3% of our power at 16:00 on 20th January 2017!
We have had an anticyclone sitting over the UK most of the week, so little wind, sun is not very powerful and days short, I can’t wait to see the headlines in the Guardian telling us this fact. It was them who distorted the facts when they crowed that 28% of our power on Christmas day was from wind – it was very windy and demand was less than half of a normal working day, and it mild.
Perhaps with smart metering we can have users decide if they wish to opt for Green tariffs, but they will have to accept that they will be cut off when demand exceeds supply from renewals, or they get an option to pay all the cost of any stand-by equipment required to in-fill their supply if they want to retain their power.
Those of us who are not convinced that windmills are the answer, can continue with our gas turbines, coal and hopefully micro-nuclear power stations, and avoid contributing to the money making machines.

J Mac
January 20, 2017 10:40 am

The myth of ‘sustainable renewable energy’ founders on the unyielding reefs of economics.
If it’s truly sustainable, it won’t need subsidies… or government protection.

Owen in GA
January 20, 2017 1:04 pm

If it needed subsidies to survive, it wasn’t a real industry!

Reply to  Owen in GA
January 20, 2017 1:42 pm

That’s all there is to it.

January 20, 2017 8:58 pm

“The trouble with climate change as a political issue is that it’s too big to grasp, too ever-present” That is not the problem at all. The real problem is the science is so weak and the computer models so questionable. The failure of the models to match the actual data for the last 20 years means the catastrophic predictions of the future are not believable. More and more new information is questioning the man-made contribution to what is really natural climate change.

Johann Wundersamer
January 21, 2017 7:46 pm

So the Brits should have best Conditions since 1983 –
She is a social democrat and was a candidate for the Social Democratic Party in the 1983 general election. She now broadly supports the Labour Party.
1983. What happened meanwhile?

Johann Wundersamer
January 21, 2017 9:37 pm

Whenever a name like https://www.ncei.noaa.gov/
appears on the e-mail account –
mark that path as spam.

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