Wind and solar have become the fossils of the energy industry; oil, gas and coal remain the fuels of the future
By Larry Solomon
Ontario Premier Doug Ford’s repeal of the Green Energy Act and balks by premiers of other Canadian provinces at Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s climate agenda aren’t rearguard moves by Donald Trump wannabes. They are part of a worldwide trend rejecting renewables, rejecting climate change alarmism, and embracing coal and other fossil fuels. Renewables and the high electricity rates they ushered in drove individuals into energy poverty and led industry to flee, putting the lie to the claim that wind and solar are the fuels of the future. Wind and solar, rather, have become the fossils of the energy industry; oil, gas and coal remain the fuels of the future.
China was once the poster boy of the renewable energy industry — just a few months ago Bloomberg stated, “China’s investment in renewables is leaving the rest of the world in its wake” thanks to its subsidy-driven growth. Now China has now begun to throw in the towel by cutting subsidies to renewables, an augur of the demise of investment in its renewables sector. With the cutting of subsidies to renewables in the EU, investment last year dropped to less than half of its peak six years earlier. Japan’s investment halved in just three years.
While China is pulling back from renewables, it’s plunging into coal. According to a BBC report this week, China is boosting its reliance on coal by 25 per cent through construction of hundreds of new coal-fired generating plants. Once completed, its incremental coal capacity will be equivalent to that of the entire U.S. coal fleet. Coal aside, China this year will become the world’s largest importer of natural gas, both via pipeline (up by over 20 per cent) and by ship (up over 50 per cent). It is already the world’s largest importer of coal and oil.
Germany, another renewable-energy poster child, is following the same unwinding, cutting subsidies to wind developers while upping gas imports and local coal. To extract that coal, Germany has decided to expand an existing open-pit coal mine, Europe’s largest, by subsidizing the razing of a 12,000-year-old forest. To round out Germany’s retreat from the demands of the country’s green lobby, it is relaxing regulations that would have required automakers to produce low-CO2-emitting vehicles.
Japan plans to remove its modest renewables subsidies while aggressively expanding fossil fuels — it is adding 40 coal stations to its existing 100. The U.K. is likewise turning from renewables, where investment is expected to decrease by 95 per cent by 2020, in favour of the development of the country’s immense shale-gas resources. And Australia is ending its renewables subsidy program altogether by 2020, giving its abundant coal resources a major lift.
The most consequential change of all, however, occurred in the United States, where the Democratic Party — adherents to the global warming orthodoxy — first lost control of the Congress and then the presidency to the Republicans under President Donald Trump, an outspoken critic of the global-warming lobby. When Trump abandoned the Paris climate accord in favour of coal and other carbon-based fuels, the world’s leaders rose up almost as one in outrage. Today, with the U.S. having revived its coal industry, having become the world’s largest oil producer and having propelled its once-moribund economic growth rates past the others, those world leaders are following America’s lead while falling silent on Paris. The once-powerful United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, formerly a fixture in the news, is defanged and forgotten, having lost its U.S. funding and its relevance.
The decline of government funding for renewables follows years of public opinion polls that consistently show the public isn’t much fussed about climate change. Governments finally got the message that the green lobby wasn’t all-powerful. The most timid, least principled players in society — the corporate sector — may be next in showing some spine on the climate change file. According to an internal memo leaked earlier this month, BusinessEurope, the EU’s largest employer association, intends to counter EU plans to tighten carbon-dioxide emissions at their expense, albeit ever so mutedly. If it carries through with its plans and actually dares to publicly represent the interests of its members, it will be one more sign that environmental NGOs and their enablers — the mainstream media — have lost their power.