Monday, January 07, 2008

Climate change: more denial in the Herald

And it's all FAQ stuff from Brian Leyland. "The world was warmer during the Middle Ages" (wrong), sunspots and cosmic rays (wrong and wrong), we can't trust the projections (wrong), the world has not warmed since 1998 (wrong), and even though it's not happening, it'll be good for us anyway (wrong. Really, really wrong). And then he has the cheek to claim the government has been "badly advised". Hardly. They listen to scientists who base their opinions on the evidence, not flat earthers funded by the oil industry. As for the Herald, I doubt they'd let the flat earth society or holocaust deniers push their delusion as fact under the cover of a news story; why do they allow it for climate change deniers?

But the real target of Leyland's ire is the government's National Energy Strategy, Powering Our Future. This sets out a loose plan to shift our energy supply in a more sustainable direction, to reduce greenhouse gas emissions but also to ensure sustainability in future in the face of declining fossil fuel supplies. A key part of the strategy is a strong push for renewable electricity generation, in the form of wind and eventually wave power, and a phasing out of dirty fossil fuel generation (though some of this is inevitable as plants age and gas supplies dry up). To Leyland - a power engineer by trade - this is anathema; the primary aim of an energy strategy should be to ensure that we have a "reliable and economic" (meaning "cheap") supply of electricity, and bugger the environmental externalities (which aren't just limited to climate change. What industrial users save on the price of coal generation, the rest of us pay for in pollution and lung cancer). But the market has already judged the reliability and economic case for renewables, and the results speak for themselves: the amount of wind generation has doubled in the last year, and we now have 2,000 MW of new generation in the process of being consented. This is well in excess of forecast demand growth, and well in excess of even the government's 2030 projections (I have no idea where Leyland gets his 6000 MW figure from - presumably, his arse). And that's without any subsidies, based solely on the consenting risks and an appreciation of the real cost of wind vs thermal generation (something Leyland likes to ignore). As for expense, the cumulative cost to the economy of this transition to 90% renewable generation is $300 million over 25 years - which is pretty much chicken feed.

Basically, Leyland is yesterday's man, pushing yesterday's dirty technology, unable to understand that the world has moved on, that we now have cleaner (and in many cases cheaper) alternatives, and that it is no longer socially acceptable to environmentally subsidise heavy energy users by ignoring the true costs of thermal generation. In short, this advocate for the fossil fuel industry is a fossil himself.