Energy: the doomsday scenario

Wednesday 8 December 2021  

"Unless we're willing to avert our attentions from [the legacy media] output and set our own agendas", writes Pete, "they'll continue to spit on us and rub our faces in it". This is his comment on the venality of contemporary media coverage, and a view with which I heartily agree.

Certainly, I don't think any of the issues which fill the front pages of today's papers would have made it there, had I been involved, with the exception of the Financial Times lead, which tells us: "US [is] to demand halt to Nord Stream 2 if Russia invades Ukraine", a story partially replicated on The Times front page.

We don't, of course, know if the Russians do intend to invade – the recent troop movements could be sabre-rattling, or a not-so-devious ploy to put pressure on Germany (and the EU) to speed up the Nord Stream approval process. But my guess is that, if they do, they will move on Christmas Eve, as they did when they invaded Afghanistan.

However, if Russia does go into Ukraine and Germany reacts as Biden wants, the likely outcome will be the closure of the Ukraine natural gas pipelines serving the "western corridor".

If this happens, there is no doubt that it will precipitate a Europe-wide energy crisis, the like of which we have never experienced before – especially as Russia has already been withholding supplies, limiting deliveries to the spot market.

As different states struggle to make up their energy shortfalls, the UK will not escape the fallout. Norway, in the first instance, will be under huge pressure to divert gas supplies to mainland Europe, cutting down on UK pipeline flows. We can expect the Netherlands gas interconnector to be shut down and, as France diverts electricity to the European grid, we will be lucky to get anything through their electricity interconnectors.

There will be some LNG available, but there will be strong competition for supplies, and prices will be astronomical. And no amount would be sufficient to keep the UK grid going, simply because of flow constraints.

With the UK unable to meet more than half of its gas consumption from its own resources – less during winter peaks – and with only six days storage, there will have to be implemented a programme of severe gas rationing.

First to go will be the major energy users – of both gas and electricity. The latter will be necessary to cut the demand for electricity generation and thus eke out gas supplies.

The domestic distribution system was be protected at all costs: a drop in pressure might allow air into the system leading to multiple and possible fatal gas explosions. Thus, the next to go will be gas generation, which will almost certainly lead to widespread brownouts.

On the upside, if the gas shortage is predicted, at least the electricity cuts can be managed, with warnings given and, with sufficient rotation, the durations limited. People (those who can afford to) will be able to prepare, and most of the damage contained.

Without plentiful supplies of gas, though, the [electricity] grid will be extremely vulnerable to any perturbations because, as we have seen, gas generation performs the dual role of producing electricity and balancing the system.

Given that we will be heavily dependent on renewables, a sudden a collapse in wind generation – could force widespread, unplanned power cuts. Worse still, a sudden, unexpected drop in output could trigger what is known as a cascade failure, where local overloads cause others power stations to drop out, until the whole system shuts down.

In such an event, restoring power to the grid is not a simple matter. Sections of the grid must be isolated and a single unit reconnected to one part, and stabilised. The next plant must then be synchronised with the first before it too can be reconnected, and then the next, and the next, and so on. Restoring full functionality, even without glitches, can takes days if not weeks.

As the victims of storm Arwen have been finding, there is an enormous difference between coping with a short power outage, and being without power for several days. And even in rural Scotland and Northumberland, where power supplies are never truly dependable, what was remarkable was how ill-prepared many people were.

Translate this to a London power cut and it takes little to imagine what the effect might be on community life and law and order. Probably within hours, there will be looting and then rioting in our more "diverse" districts.

The police may well have serious communication problems, and many staff might find it difficult to get to work, as the transport infrastructure fails in the absence of power. Large areas will be unpoliceable, and unpoliced, as available resources are directed to protecting vulnerable and priority areas.

If this sounds too much like a doomsday scenario, we need to be conscious of just how fragile UK generation already is, even without the Ukraine situation blowing up.

For instance, on 3 December this year, the National Grid ESO issued its first Electricity Capacity Market Notice (CMN) of the winter for the same evening, posted because the capacity margin had fallen below the threshold set out in the Capacity Market Rules.

For the period, there had been an expected transmission demand and therefore operating margin of 42,518MW. However, there had been only 42,472MW of aggregate capacity of Balancing Mechanism (BM) units expected at that time.

Although the notice was cancelled later the same day, it does indicate quite how tight margins actually are, when the system is supposed to be fully mobilised to meet winter demands. The previous notice had been on 8 January of this year, with an expected demand of 45,081MW.

On the mainland, other countries even now are struggling, with Spain struggling as Algeria has failed to meet its gas export target. Supplies are down and costs have spiralled, with the price of electricity four times more than what it was this time last year.

Elsewhere, Poland is having to rely on a Swedish oil-fired power plant, to help ease an electricity shortage. The country was facing difficulties in balancing its system due to low wind generation and outages of several units.

Nor is this a one-off, with the system operator admitting that the situation is far from under control. If there are severe frosts this winter and not too many winds, experts do not rule out the possibility of blackouts.

But, while Poland can blame legacy problems going as far back as Soviet times, the UK has no excuse. That system is so fragile speaks to the utter stupidity and short-sightedness of allowing our fossil fuel generation system to deteriorate, while relying excessively on renewables.

The potential consequences have even been pointed out by the boss of Aramco, Saudi Arabia’s state-owned oil company. He warns that attempting to switch to renewable energy "virtually overnight" would lead to soaring prices and erode public support for the changes, while unleashing social unrest.

This is hardly rocket science, but evidently way above the comprehension level of our politicians. At the end of last month, we even had Liz Truss urging Nato allies to block Nord Stream 2, even without waiting for Russia to invade Ukraine.

The stupid woman is worried that Moscow would exploit its position if European nations became reliant on it for energy, apparently unaware that the new pipeline simply replaces part of the decaying Ukrainian system and brings no additional capacity to the table. Europe is already reliant on Russia for energy, and especially Germany.

Yet, if it is real stupidity you want, you just have to look at the media front pages (with the honourable exceptions), to realise how badly we are served when there are potentially life-changing events on the horizon.

Also published on Turbulent Times.

Richard North 08/12/2021 link

Energy: pointing the finger

Tuesday 7 December 2021  

One undisputed power which falls to incumbent prime ministers is the ability – barring tumultuous events outside their control – to set the media agenda. Thus we have the fool Johnson yesterday, raiding the dressing-up box yet again, this time to announce a "drug policy" which, by all accounts, is much the same as every other failed drug policy.

The great privilege of blogging, on the other hand, is that we can ignore the set agendas and focus on issues which are less fully covered but in some respects of more lasting impact than the crise du jour.

With that in mind, I was entertained yesterday by the report that a 1.3GW coal-fired power plant is under construction at the former Yokosuka thermal power station site near the port of Kurihama, in the Kanagawa Prefecture, Japan.

Even more entertaining was the additional news that Yokosuka is one of the 22 new coal-fired power plants planned to be built in Japan by 2025, a plan that has the BBC squealing with anguish that Japan is increasing its coal consumption "at a time of great concern about coal's impact on the climate".

The reasons for this development, of course, are obvious. Since the run-down of the indigenous nuclear programme, following the 2011 Fukushima nuclear plant closure, Japan has been finding that reliance on gas-fired power stations is too expensive and the supplies uncertain. Hence the Japanese government has decided on a massive expansion of the coal-fired generation fleet, powered by cheap coal imported from Australia.

Interestingly – some might say tragically – we were in much the same position a decade or more ago, in 2009 when I picked up in the EU Referendum blog a letter in the Telegraph written by energy expert Tony Lodge.

Since 1997, he noted, the government had approved over 30 gigawatts of electricity generation from gas-fired power stations, with gas on 2009 generating over 43 percent of UK electricity. No other conventional power plants, such as clean coal or nuclear, had been approved in the period to boost energy diversity and get prices down.

Thus, wrote Lodge, a present 90 percent of current and proposed power station construction in Britain is gas-fired. By 2020, he added, 60 percent or more of our electricity will come from gas, 80 percent of which will be imported by pipeline or LNG ship. Gas prices are tied to oil prices and, though low now, will rise again and remain volatile. With that, he warned, "all our energy eggs are in one basket".

None of us at the time appreciated the extent to which successive governments would pursue the development of renewables – in particular wind and solar – rigging the market to make it appear that this generation was economically viable. Lodge actually called for the approval of a new supercritical coal plant, proposed at Kingsnorth in Kent, in order to reduce our reliance on gas.

However, after the intervention of Greenpeace, and the acquittal of its activists, the project was abandoned in late 2009 - the last attempt in the UK to build a new coal-fired power station. And, although Lodge got some of the detail wrong, we are nonetheless now in the position where we are over-reliant on gas, with prices rising precipitately.

The Japanese action, therefore, provides a remarkable contrast, as between a government which has the interests of its people and economy at hears, and our virtue-signalling fools who are in charge of our energy policy.

And, in the refusal to address the needs of the country, it seems that the UK government is very much on its own. Already, we're familiar with the stance of India, which dispatched 291.72 million tonnes during April-October 2021.

Now we learn that the government has ordered the state-owned Coal India Limited to ramp up coal production to one billion tonnes by 2023-2024, up from 828.5 million tonnes this financial year.

Similarly, China is ramping up production and also expects to hit peak levels by 2024, reaching at 2.48 billion tonnes of standard coal equivalent – although coal-fired electricity is not expected to peak until 2028.

In Russia, coal is still king and, as this report indicates, the government wants still more. It has called for increased annual production to reach a minimum of 485 million tons by 2035, up from 441 million tons in 2019. Optimistically, the government says, production will hit as much as 668 million tons in that period.

Even in Biden's United States, which has committed to decarbonising the power grid by 2035, coal is making a comeback as high natural gas prices limit its use in electricity generation.

Annual US coal-fired electricity generation is set to rise this year for the first time since 2014, and the share of coal in America's power generation mix is set to rise to 23 percent in 2021 from 20 percent in 2020 as electricity demand rebounds and the delivered natural gas price for electricity generators more than doubles.

But it isn't only the giants who are turning to coal for salvation. Ukraine, under the military cosh from its Russian neighbour, is also being deprived of exports from the Federation. Stepping into the breach is the United States: the second of seven ships with 66,000 tonnes of American coal has just arrived in Ukraine. Some 470,000 tonnes is expected by the end of January 2022.

Landlocked Kyrgyzstan is also suffering an energy crisis and it too is relying on coal, to the extent that it is supplying subsidised coal for home heating after a shortfall of hydroelectric power, following a drought across the region.

For all the rhetoric at Cop26, when it comes to a choice of meeting international targets and keeping the lights on – to say nothing of keeping warm – self-interest invariably prevails. And, for the moment, that is an extremely sensible stance. While the warmists continue to wibble about the "climate emergency", the real world is intruding to confound the modellers' predictions.

Latest of the poster children to fall is Greenland, where it is reported that the ice melt, which has slowed significantly during the past decade, has swung to one of growth. Satellite measurements showed a gain last Sunday of 9 Gigatonnes of slow and ice, amongst the largest daily accumulations ever seen on the ice sheet.

But even while Johnson dresses up and blathers about whatever it is that takes his fancy, the destruction of the UK's energy resources goes on. Within three years, what is left of the legacy coal generation fleet – on which we are currently reliant to keep the grid from falling over – will have been taken out of service, while there is still no in-service date for Hinkley Point C.

As some residents in the Northeast and Scotland have been finding after six or more days without electricity, normal life pretty much stops once the power goes off. In the greater scheme of things, there are very few things more important than the security of our electricity supply.

Regardless of the political and media agendas of the day, therefore, we'll continue to do our own thing. As least if we are descending into darkness, we should know why, and where to point the finger when it happens.

Also published on Turbulent Times.

Richard North 07/12/2021 link

Energy: a question of balance

Monday 6 December 2021  

Dominant in the thinking of many people who follow the burgeoning energy crisis is the increasing unreliability of wind generation and the runaway costs of balancing the grid when the wind fails.

One egregious example of this came on 2 November when the grid was so short of power that the Electricity System Operator (ESO), with its control room in Warwickshire, was paying the giant Drax power station £4,050/MWh, against the July wholesale electricity price of £70.59/MWh.

Somewhat behind the curve, we now see the Telegraph pick up the story with a piece written by Rachel Millard, headed: "Britain heads for an energy shock", telling us that: "National Grid ESO, the body responsible for balancing electricity supply and demand, is investigating soaring charges".

The day Millard picks, though, isn't 2 November but the 24th, when the grid was having similar problems. It was a cold day on both sides of the Channel, she writes, and as demand rose, cheap nuclear power from France was not being sent to Britain via the interconnector. Instead, electricity was being sent the other way due to high prices that day in France.

With wind speeds down, coal and gas were once more picking up the load, but at a steep price. Shortages in the morning, though, turned into too much power in the afternoon and by the end of the day, the operators had spent a record £64 million balancing the system.

Millard goes on to say that it was an exceptionally expensive day, but not without warning. ESO is having to spend increasing amounts on system balancing, "heaping costs onto industry and, ultimately, consumer bills".

The costs, she adds, have triggered alarm in the company and among regulators at a time of steeply rising household energy bills, triggering a review by the ESO. It has also raised questions about the design of the market, the readiness of the system to shift to green energy, and whether power stations are profiteering by bidding in with sky-high prices.

What she doesn't say, though, that it isn't just ESO which is getting worried. On 17 August, last year, the regulator Ofgem got involved, noting that the GB electricity system had seen an increase in balancing costs during the spring and summer of 2020, coinciding with the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Specifically, the regulator said, the period from March to July 2020 had seen balancing costs of £718 million, which had been 39 percent higher than the ESO had expected for the period.

These costs, Ofgem noted, had increased at the same time that the nationwide lockdowns had changed consumer electricity consumption behaviour and reduced industrial activity. Moreover, some of this period had also seen high level of renewables output, which had required the ESO to take a large number of actions to balance the system and ensure system operability.

As a result, Ofgem published an open letter stating its intention to evaluate the high balancing costs on the GB electricity system, and to "identify lessons that need to be explored further in order to reduce costs to consumers going forward".

Millard now brings in her own take on the data, telling us that the ESO spent £1.29 billion on this market between April and October 2021, compared to £986 million during the same period in 2020. Monthly costs, she writes. have now breached £200 million for three months in a row.

Actually, that is an understatement. The ESO has published figures up to the end of October and the spend for that last month was £315.61 billion. November is likely to be higher.

According to Millard, the growing need is only part of the picture. She relies on "experts" to point to the high prices commanded by generators, which the ESO has little option other than to pay. Here, she recalls that Drax had been paid £4,000 per MwH to switch its remaining coal turbines in North Yorkshire on during particularly cold and still days since September.

However, these exceptionally high balancing prices are now distorting the entire generation market. While the bulk of power is sold on contract, with fixed prices over agreed terms, many fossil fuel power station owners – squeezed by high gas prices and other costs – are dropping out of the capacity market and registering as balancing services providers.

Even though the wholesale price of power has climbed above £200 per MwH, power station operators have realised that it is far more profitable to sell at the higher rates on offer through the balancing mechanism.

Phil Hewitt, director at market specialists EnAppSys, cited by Millard, believes that roughly 4GW has been switched out of the capacity market to be redesignated as balancing services.

"Typically", Hewitt says, "this means now that National Grid is paying the equivalent of 20p/kWh [spread over the entire power output], to balance the system on days which are not very tight, but where stations have exited the wholesale market to participate in the balancing mechanism".

This, though, is by no means the only distortion creeping into the market, about which Millard is not particularly forthcoming. In an extremely complex market, there are many different types of balancing services required.

There is, for instance, the "enhanced frequency response" where the generator contracts to provide a highly flexible service, responsive within one second to frequency deviations, and able operate in a frequency sensitive mode. This attracts a considerable availability payment, even if the service is not called upon.

Then there is the "firm fast reserve", which provides "rapid and reliable delivery of active power through increasing output from generation", deliverable within 2 minutes at a minimum ramp rate of 25 MW/Min. This is different from the "fast start", where generators attract an availability payment to being able to deliver power, synchronise and achieve full load within 5 minutes of a frequency excursion beyond a pre-set limit.

The ESO lists over 60 different service options, which makes balancing the grid more like conducting a vast orchestra, and is clearly not a task for the fainthearted – or the amateur. The wonder is, with a system so complex, that it works at all. It certainly does need reviewing.

Millard, however, seems to be unaware of the Ofgem review – which does not appear to have reported – although this is difficult to tell amid the welter of reports produced by the regulator.

But, with the ESO having become a legally separate function within the National Grid from 1 April 2019, the whole system has been reviewed, with the report issued in January this year. Admitting that it has not yet considered the specific lessons from the balancing cost increases, it nevertheless concedes that the role of the ESO is "becoming increasingly challenging".

With an eye on "net zero", it reports that, "Balancing an electricity system with a high proportion of intermittent, renewable generation already presents a significant challenge, which has contributed to a significant increase in electricity system balancing costs between 2015 and 2020". It then adds that, "Cost-effective management of an increasingly complex and renewable power system will play an important role in achieving net zero at least cost".

There, we have something that the Telegraph doesn't tell us, that it is the renewables that have "contributed to a significant increase in electricity system balancing costs" – something that should really have been the lead headline.

But more worryingly, in considering "net zero", Ofgem states that "existing market arrangements may need to evolve and innovate to enable a flexible but resilient resource mix and support efficient system balancing".

Noting that "a large fleet of unabated CCGTs is not consistent with achieving a net zero power system", it also states that there could be "significant consumer benefit in developing new long-term approaches to planning how the necessary increase in low carbon flexibility can be incentivised to enable more efficient energy balancing".

Reading between the lines, together with the rest of the report, this rather indicates that effective balancing system for a "low carbon" network have yet to be devised. In her headline, therefore, telling us that: "Britain heads for an energy shock", she was closer that she possibly knew. The only real question is how big.

Also published on Turbulent Times.

Richard North 06/12/2021 link

Media: the cynical view

Sunday 5 December 2021  

I seriously don't want to write about the OMG version 3.0 of the coronavirus which seems to have reached global circulation in record time (even if it seems to have been around much longer than was initially thought).

From very early on, Covid primeTM seems to be following the typical (and expected) pattern of epidemic viral diseases – increased infectivity combined with reduced virulence, which is the final cover for such diseases as they fade into to background to become endemic illnesses of very little concern.

As such, it is very difficult to avoid the suspicion that the government response (along with some others) is a massive over-reaction, the timing of which conveniently diverts attention from other, more pressing problems, - especially with the legacy media which is so easily distracted by the soap opera of the ongoing booster campaign.

At times such as these, it becomes necessary to watch even more closely for what is not being widely reported, a task which is inevitably more difficult by dint of the fact that the material isn't being widely reported.

An important endeavour in this respect is to follow through climate-relevant information, filling the post-Cop26 vacuum with stories which don't fit the warmist narrative – an endless source of entertainment as this winter is already cofounding the worst predictions of the keepers of the faith.

Some of the greatest entertainment comes from the contrast between the earnest warmist propaganda and the real world reports, which brings me to a recent article in the New Scientist, widely cited elsewhere.

This is headed with the legend: "Orcas are spreading further into the Arctic Ocean as sea ice melts", telling us that, "Orcas – also known as killer whales – used to be unusual visitors to the Arctic Ocean off Alaska, but they are becoming more common there, which might be bad news for local ecosystems".

The story is down to Brynn Kimber at the University of Washington and her colleagues, who have found more and more orcas in the ice-covered Arctic waters near Alaska there in recent years - a region that these mammals tend to avoid because sea ice makes it "difficult to access and also leaves the mammals at risk of becoming trapped below the surface".

To track orca populations, Kimber and her team used underwater acoustic recordings of north-western Arctic waters. They collected data between 2012 and 2019 from four recorders that were attached to anchors dotted around the area, ranging from the northerly edge of the Chukchi Sea to the more southerly Bering Strait, just off the Alaskan coast.

We are the told that the researcher found that in the southern regions near the Bering Strait, orcas now make a regular appearance each summer. What's more, they were arriving in these areas up to a month earlier in the summer of 2019 than they did in the summer of 2012, possibly due to earlier ice disappearance.

In the northern Chukchi borderlands, they also found that orcas were present more frequently and consistently by 2019, again perhaps due to reducing ice cover.

I suppose it was just bad luck that Kimber chose to publish shortly after the Anchorage Daily News reported: "November ice extent in Chukchi Sea is well above average of past 30 years".

This comes from climatologist Rick Thoman who, with the Alaska Center for Climate Assessment and Policy, has Chukchi Sea ice data going back to 1979. Current sea ice extent in northern Alaska waters is the highest it's been in November since 2001.

Interestingly, we find that this is not just a function of the colder temperatures – although these do help. According to Thoman, in addition to the persistently cold pattern since early October, there have been sustained northern winds. Thus, he says, "we didn't have our thumbs on the scales with very warm waters that had to be extracted out".

This wind shift possibly accounts for the fact that sea ice formation at the opposite end of the Artic Ocean, in Hudson Bay, is lower than average, leaving the wibblers clear to wail that "Arctic sea ice is disappearing and it’s harming polar bears".

That story, though – along with others of its ilk – is over a month old, geared to extract maximum impact for the Cop26 eco-fest, but the wailing has died down somewhat as the ice is returning and the iconic polar bears are heading out to resume feeding before winter sets in.

While reporting the slow development of the ice in the Bay, however, the reported, this sudden freeze was picked up by the legacy media in late November, with the news that ice-breakers were on their way to rescue the trapped ships.

Some indeed have been freed and the research and expedition ship Mikhail Somov is reported safely back in her home port of Arkhangelsk, as of 2 December – not that this news has reached the legacy media.

There are fascinating details here as it appears that the ship was not released by ice-breakers. Instead, in one instance, the gas carrier Boris Davydov, sailing from China to Sabetta, on 23 November, came to its rescue. On the following day, the ship once again got iced-in, this time near the entrance to the Nordenskiold Archipelago. Its rescuer this time was gas carrier Rudolf Samoilovich.

With that, and especially with the lack of any reports to the contrary in the legacy media, one might think that the crisis was over – all's well that ends well. But in one of the remotest regions on earth, where news is very hard to get, it seems that the situation is very far from normal.

We can glean this from a very recent report from The Maritime Executive which tells us that Atomflot has mobilised its two heavy icebreakers, the brand new Arktika and the veteran 50 Let Pobedy, which are on their way to provide assistance to trapped vessels.

With three other Atomflot nuclear icebreakers said to be already on station - the Vaygach, the Taymyr and the Yamal, this suggests that the problems are rather more serious than are being admitted. Leonid Irlitsa, First Deputy Director General for Navigation at Atomflot concedes only that: "It is the first time that we are providing icebreaker assistance at this time of the year".

Doubtless, there are more important stories that our legacy media could be reporting but, when one sees the torrent of trivia that daily fills the pages of the British press – and clutters their websites – it is very easy to take the cynical view that readers are being fed a diet of garbage to keep them from addressing the more substantive issues.

But there is some sense also that hard-edged technical stories of the likes of ice-clearance in the Northern Sea Route are too complex for today's media reporters, who are more at home with soft-focus "nature" stories about killer whales and not-so-cuddly polar bears.

Either way, we need to be acutely conscious – as always – that the media narrative is precisely that, a narrative. But what we are being told is rarely the extent of what we need to know.

Also published on Turbulent Times.

Richard North 05/12/2021 link

Energy: the insanity of the Guardian

Saturday 4 December 2021  

It is very much a feature of the media that some of the most important stories get the least attention – t'was ever thus. But the news that Royal Dutch Shell had scrapped plans to develop the North Sea Cambo oilfield is a major event.

Reuters noted that the field, situated off the Shetland Isles, had become a "lightning rod" for climate activists who had been seeking to halt all development of oil and gas resources. And now, it looks as if Shell has given up the unequal struggle.

Following "comprehensive screening" of the field – which could potentially yield hundreds of millions of barrels of oil - it has "concluded the economic case for investment in this project is not strong enough at this time, as well as having the potential for delays".

This doesn't necessarily mean the end of the project though. Shell is only a 30 percent minority partner. The private equity-backed Siccar Point Energy owns a majority stake and, for the moment, is to continue the development.

However, it didn't take the Guardian to get on the case, gleefully announcing that Shell's "U-turn" on Cambo "could mean end for big North Sea oil projects", noting that private companies don't typically have the track record in project development which Shell brought to the table.

Furthermore, despite Siccar Point's determination to continue, the paper cites anonymous "industry sources" who say will struggle to find new partner to take on Shell’s stake in the oilfield. Therefore, it believes Shell's decision could sound the "death knell", not only for this project, but all large-scale North Sea projects.

According to the Guardian, the trigger for Shell's decision to scrap the project was the government's insistence that the company would need to meet certain "climate concessions" to win approval for the development.

It was following this that the company decided that the "economic case for investment" was not strong. But this had been on top of the UK regulator's "unexpected" decision to decline Shell's application to develop a separate North Sea project at the Jackdaw field.

There is now "a huge amount of uncertainty" around the government's support for new oil and gas development in the North Sea, a situation which environmental campaigners are keen to exploit.

Caroline Rance, speaking for Friends of the Earth Scotland, says: "Both the UK and Scottish governments must now officially reject Cambo, say no to any future oil and gas developments in UK waters and get on with planning a fair and fast transition for people working in this industry".

But this is nothing compared with the stern line from the Guardian. In yesterday's editorial, it exhorts the government to keep North Sea oil "in the ground", stating that "Britain won't convince anyone else to ditch fossil fuels when it won't do so itself".

It expresses the hope that the decision by Shell to pull out of the Cambo oilfield does in fact mark the end of oil and gas investment in the North Sea. "for planet's sake". Nevertheless, it thinks it more realistic to see the act as "a first victory in a longer war to keep hydrocarbons in the ground".

It accuses, in lurid terms, the UK government of wanting extractive industries "to suck the seabed dry" and complains that it has failed to join an alliance of nations – led by Denmark and Costa Rica, and including France and Ireland – which have set an end date for oil and gas production and exploration. Instead, Johnson "will allow companies to keep exploring the North Sea for new reserves".

For a moment, one has to do a double-take here. This is not some wild rag from an extremist environmental campaign group, but a supposedly responsible national newspaper. And even by its own measure, what the paper is supporting is barking mad.

It recognises, for instance, that even if the world achieves "net zero" emissions (which it won't), it will not mean the end of oil and gas. The International Energy Agency (IEA), we are told, projects that if the world reached the goal by 2050, it would still be using nearly half as much natural gas as today and about one-quarter as much oil.

This would mean, it says, that as the UK constrains its domestic fossil fuel output, wealthy Gulf states that can produce oil cheaply will increase their market share. It would also see Moscow's significance to Europe’s energy security rise before it falls.

As if this was not bad enough, the paper makes no attempt to explain to its readers what will happen between now and 2050, with the UK winding down its offshore industry, long before alternative provisions are in place.

Even yesterday, as darkness fell and solar energy fell off the edge, wind power dropped to less then 10 percent of the energy generation mix, and fossil fuels were taking nearly 60 percent of the overall load.

Even if nuclear can be ramped up significantly – which looks unlikely, even by 2050 – the intermittent nature of renewables (wind and solar) will remain. Even a doubling or tripling the wind fleet would not support today's demand, much less the massively increased demand which comes with the decarbonisation agenda.

To close down the North Sea, therefore, would leave the UK in an even more perilous position than it is at the moment, having to import massive amounts of natural gas to keep the lights on, as well as the oil to sustain the transport industry which will be relying on fossil fuels well past the 2050 cut-off.

All of this, though – in the Guardian's book is directed towards the UK "setting an example", to which effect it wants us to enter a new era of energy poverty in the hope that alternative technologies will catch up. Without that, it says, "It is hard to see how Britain will convince anyone else to ditch fossil fuels when it won’t do so itself".

With the UK producing less than one percent of the global CO2 emissions, though, the only way it can have an impact is to hope that the rest of the world does follow its example, but to expect that is beyond the barking mad. It verges on the insane.

Already, the governments of both Indian and China have made it abundantly clear that they will do what it takes to keep the lights on, and that includes expanding their coal generation fleets, while also fuelling the growth of the car numbers.

Looking at the bigger picture, though, what we see is an example of a newspaper which has sold its soul to the climate change cult, just as it seems the global temperature is insisting on showing signs of declining, while different parts of the globe are breaking records for new temperature lows.

For those who are interested in such things, there are indications that we are approaching significant period of minimum sunspot activity, compatible with the phenomenon known as the Maunder Minimum, triggering a "little ice age". The last time this happened, between 1645 and 1715, the Thames routinely froze over and Londoners were enjoying hog roasts under London Bridge.

The prospect of a repeat is roundly dismissed by the current batch of high priest of the climate cult, who stick to their mantra that the 2.225 percent of man-produced carbon dioxide, of the 0.04 percent of the total in the atmosphere, is set to bring us to the end of times.

Anyone with a reservoir of sanity though – which clearly does not include the staff of the Guardian, or even members of this government – might like to hedge their bets. By 2050, when the full extent of "net zero" is due to kick in, we could be celebrating the event with ice-barbies on the Thames once again.

In the meantime, as average temperatures slide inexorably downwards – as they show every sign of doing – I almost pity the government officials tasked with persuading us to dispense with our gas boilers. Some may find what it is like to wear a heat pump.

Also published on Turbulent Times.

Richard North 04/12/2021 link

Immigration: contradictions and hypocrisy

Friday 3 December 2021  

Those with longer memories will remember the comedy programme Drop the Dead Donkey which, if nothing else, underlined the cynicism of the tabloid press in pursuit of headlines.

It would be very easy to make the case that the reporting of the recent deaths of 27 migrants in the Channel was an unscripted version of the programme. After all, there was a vast tumult of publicity for not very many deaths compared with the enormous losses elsewhere, the reasons for the attention residing in the golden triangle of news values: proximity, novelty and topicality.

By comparison, the report in early October of 18,000 migrants dying in the Mediterranean simply did not qualify for inclusion in the British media.

This particular set of deceased have clearly made the mistake of dying in distant waters, at a time when migrants in the Mediterranean weren't a "thing" for the British press, and there had been plenty of dead bodies earlier so there was nothing especially novel about reporting on what, after all, was the cumulative effect of serial drownings over a lengthy period.

Without the "creative touches" of an attractive (dead) young lady, or a winsome child plucked from the unforgiving waters, even drowning events with a cast of thousands couldn't compete with a Facebook outage, a potential Christmas turkey shortage, the aftermath of the fuel crisis and a smattering of rapes – one of them attributed to a police officer.

Fortunately for their concerned readers, though, on the back of the Channel drownings, the Guardian has revisited the earlier dead, with an article headed: The most unsafe passage to Europe has claimed 18,000 victims. Who speaks for them?"

The piece is written by Lorenzo Tondo, a Guardian correspondent "covering Italy and the migration crisis", and his secondary theme is that: "As Europe outsources its border policing to Libya, rescue operations by NGOs are hampered by criminal inquiries in Italy".

Starting off with the obligatory "human interest" element, we are told of the gripping news that, in the early hours of 21 June, somewhere in the vast expanse of the central Mediterranean, a Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) team on board a rescue vessel received a distress call. The motor of a small boat carrying asylum seekers from Libya had broken down, and the vessel was taking in water.

These, we learn, are the first dramatic scenes in Unsafe Passage – a Guardian Documentaries film by Ed Ou for the Outlaw Ocean Project. The film was released yesterday, which also serves as a topical hook for the piece, but the scenes depicted are said to represent "the first moments in a race against time that repeats itself again and again in the stretch of sea separating Europe from Africa".

From this scenario, there are three possible options. The first is that the Libyan coastguard makes it to the boat before the rescue crew. Then the "refugees" will be pushed back to Libyan detention centres at gunpoint. If the MSF reach the boat, the occupants will be carried to Italy but, if neither reach the vessel, "other lives will be lost in this giant watery graveyard that has already claimed thousands of asylum seekers: more than 1,300 have died or gone missing while attempting to cross the central Mediterranean so far this year alone".

The point that the paper clearly wants to emphasise is that Europe has "not only cast a blind eye on the horror", it has also "made the rescue of these people, and the lives of the rescuers, increasingly complicated".

In February 2017, it asserts, Europe ceded responsibility for overseeing Mediterranean rescue operations to Libya. The deal, struck between Rome and Tripoli, aimed at reducing migration flows across to Europe. And, since then:
… Italy has spent millions of euros to train the Libyan coastguards, and to supply them with numerous patrol vessels. The goal is to help them stop migrants from reaching Sicily and return them to Libya, where they frequently suffer violence and torture in detention centres.
There is more of this in the Outlaw Ocean Project website - a lot more – leading the Guardian to observe that the result of the Libyan "outsourcing" has been disastrous, "exposing the contradictions of that agreement and the hypocrisy of the EU toward the migration crisis".

Thus, the paper continues: the foremost paradox is represented by Libya, a politically unstable country still licking its wounds after its civil war. Italy has indirectly defined Libya as a safe country, even though the Italian authorities have often granted international protection to asylum seekers in recognition of their having been subjected to torture and sexual abuse in Libya. While Rome criticises Libya for its abuse of refugees, just last year Italy renewed its agreement with the country’s coastguard. And yet:
The coastguard is made up of many ex-militia men with allegedly strong ties to human traffickers. In October 2020, authorities in Tripoli arrested Abd al-Rahman Milad, known as Bija, a coastguard commander, over allegations of being behind the drowning of dozens of people. In 2018, the UN alleged Bija was a facilitator of human trafficking and part of a criminal network. Libyan authorities dropped the charges against him in April, citing a lack of evidence, while Milad has denied any links to human smuggling. Last year, an investigation by the Italian newspaper Avvenire claimed he was present at a series of official meetings in Italy in May 2017.
Those readers who are particularly interested can follow the links back to the two sources I cite, and neither make happy reading. But the two key words to take away from the reports are "contradictions" and "hypocrisy", as per the title of this blogpost.

The two words go hand-in-hand: the "liberal" EU, champion of human rights and purveyor of the very highest quality milk of human kindness is at the same time turning a blind eye to unspeakable cruelty and deprivation, all in the name of an immigration policy that it has never been able properly to organise, nor gain unanimous support from its member states.

At the heart of the hypocrisy are two instruments, the 1951 Refugee Convention (as amended) and the earlier (by a year) European Convention on Human Rights. In theory, the EU and its member states fully subscribe to both, yet they all realise that following them to the letter would result in Europe being swamped in an unending tide of migrants which the region simply could not support.

Thus, while paying lip service to the grand principles to which it subscribes, the European collective – of which the UK must be considered a part – imposes increasingly complex procedural and physical barriers to prevent migrants taking advantage of the "rights" which are supposedly available to all.

While, clearly, there is no obvious or single answer to this problem, that does not mean there are no answers. Like so many things in this life, there are probably multiple solutions, with no one of them providing anything other than messy, partial answers.

But a very good start would be to dump the hypocrisy. As long as we, the collective, send out mixed messages to the rest of the world, pretending to hold true to principles that exist only on paper and apply only to the lucky few who manage to circumvent the barriers, we cannot be surprised that so many are prepared to take their chances.

Before we get anywhere with this problem, we have to reconsider both the Refugee Convention and the ECHR. We need new instruments which make it very clear that entry to outsiders is limited and conditional.

For those whom we are prepared to allow entry, we must define a safe, legal procedure, while committing to return those who buck the system – or prevent their entry in the first place, using the appropriate barriers and technology to make that a reality.

Immigration, therefore, should be legal, and it should not be a lottery – and neither should it reward the queue-jumpers and the criminal gangs. And then, while there will always be those who will attempt to cheat the system, we have to stand firm on the principle that those who attempt illegal entry are authors of their own fate, risking hardship and worse for no reward.

With that, we have the technology and the systems to ensure that no one drowns but, if the consequences of humanitarian actions mean that we are them forced to accept those rescued as long-term migrants, then the world cannot be surprised if contradictions and hypocrisy become the de facto policy drivers.

Also published on Turbulent Times.

Richard North 03/12/2021 link

Immigration: the wrong target

Thursday 2 December 2021  

It is hard to disagree with Emmanuel Macron's reported view that prime minister Johnson is "un clown" in charge of a "circus", but one might stop short of endorsing his claim that he is guilty of creating "phoney wars" against France to placate a Brexit-weary public.

Even if the latter was true, we don't need Johnson to ramp up the tension, when it is becoming increasingly obvious that the French president also has his own agenda, playing to his own constituency, with the forthcoming election in mind.

Central to the current tense relationship, of course, is the surge of dinghy people and the feeling in some quarters that France isn't doing nearly enough to interrupt the flow of illegal immigrants or deal with the activities of organised crime and the exploitation of what has become a lucrative trade.

On the other hand, we have interior minister Gérald Darmanin accusing the British of making the UK "too attractive" to migrants while Europe minister Clément Beaune is pointing the finger at us for adopting "an economic model of, sometimes, quasi-modern slavery".

By making "illegal work" too easy, and "not going back to a certain number of checks, on more humane, more compliant labour market regulation", Beaune says, "this attraction will remain".

There are those, including the French themselves, who claim that it is extremely difficult to prevent the dinghy armada launching towards England, and therefore that the ultimate resolution lies in the UK reducing the "pull" factors which draw the immigrants to these shores.

Having thus exculpated themselves from any responsibility for the crisis, therefore, Johnson's letter to the French president - setting out measures that he believed would solve the crisis – went down like a bucket of cold sick, not least because it put most of the onus on the French authorities.

Amongst Johnson's proposals was a suggestion that the French used "airborne surveillance" to assist in monitoring and intercepting the migrants, using manned and unmanned aircraft, "perhaps flying under joint insignia".

The idea of joint patrols, however, was quickly turned down by France, citing concerns about "sovereignty", even though the French are quite happy to accept UK support in Mali, where RAF Chinook helicopters provide a heavy-lift combat support role.

But, while British assets are employed in support of French operations in Mali, what has subsequently emerged is how little effort is being expended to stem the flow of migrants on French soil.

This becomes clear from the recent news that France is to co-opt the EU's border and coastguard agency, Frontex, to assist in policing its coastline, to which effect the agency has provided a single patrol aircraft.

As it turns out, the aircraft is a Bombardier Challenger 604 maritime patrol aircraft, owned and operated by the Royal Danish Air Force, on loan to the agency, having been used previously in Greece and the Mediterranean.

Thus, although the French are being prissy about UK assets being used, they seem content to have a Danish-operated aircraft patrolling its shores under the aegis of the EU. This, it would appear, does not affect their "sovereignty", although a UK or jointly operated aircraft under French operational command would be an unacceptable breach.

Furthermore, while Challenger is a capable aircraft, fitted with side-looking radar, forward-looking infra-red and an advanced communications suite – capable, amongst other things, of intercepting and locating mobile phone signals – it is only one aircraft. To maintain credible, 24/7 coverage (even if only for a short time), more than one aircraft would be needed.

This raises the question as to why the French are not prepared to use their own aircraft. Not least the Gendarmerie operate a fleet of 15 Airbus EC145 helicopters, some of which are fitted with Wescam MX-15 imaging systems, or equivalent. These aircraft are thus superbly equipped for shore patrols, and for delivering rapid response interception teams.

In terms of maritime patrol aircraft, the French also have their Bréguet Atlantic fleet, including the highly capable ATL 2 upgrades which have enhanced detection systems, including the Wescam MX-20 electro-optical turret.

Inevitably, none of these assets are cheap to operate, but Frontex has been experimenting with aerostats, specifically for border surveillance. They are in the final stage of testing in Greece, where they have been patrolling 24/7 in the vicinity of Alexandroupoli and on the island of Limnos.

The fact, though, that Frontex is only now bringing such equipment into use is perhaps part of the problem, especially as its use of UAVs for border surveillance has been unsuccessful (so far), indicating a lack of member state commitment to the EU's border operations.

Certainly, Greece has been voluble in its complaints about the lack of EU support, which has had Greek coastguards beating a dinghy full of migrants and opening fire into the water close to the vessel.

Italy, on the other hand, has long felt abandoned by the EU, as has one of the other so-called "front-line countries", Malta. It has its minister for European and foreign affairs, Evarist Bartolo, complaining that, for too long, Europe has buried its head in the sand when it comes to tackling migration.

Front-line countries, he says, cannot be left to face migratory pressures alone, and solidarity among member countries should not be limited to the ad-hoc approach of the past few years whereby only some governments occasionally intervene and alleviate some of the burden experienced by the front-liners.

And then, there was very far from a harmonious approach when it came to the "hybrid warfare" on the Polish-Belarus border, where member states failed to agree on the line to take.

Looking at the migration problem in the round, therefore, it seems that France and the UK are misdirecting their efforts by fighting each other. In many senses, they have common cause in being adversely affected by the failure of the EU and the rest of the member states to get their acts together on "irregular" migration.

In this context, it is entirely fair to say that "Europe" is not doing enough to police its common borders, or to resolve the myriad of legal issues that stem from an obsolete international system which is no longer fit for purpose (if it ever was).

This aside, when it comes to the maritime border between France and the UK, we can with justice argue that, on a technical level, the French are by no means doing all that they could.

The French government might thus argue that it has other, more pressing problems, but its failure to intervene would be a political decision rather than a reflection of physical limitations. If France wanted to stop the boats, it could – given that it was prepared to spend the money and allocate the necessary resources.

At the very least, the French government could be more candid about where the problems lie, while the UK might be better advised to direct its wrath to Brussels rather than Paris, if it wants to see a long-term solution. As it stands, the French are the wrong target. This is an EU problem, and the EU must solve it.

Also published on Turbulent Times.

Richard North 02/12/2021 link

Climate change: one to savour

Wednesday 1 December 2021  

A great many of us remember with some affection the proud announcement on 20 March 2000 of Dr David Viner, a senior research scientist at the climatic research unit (CRU) of the University of East Anglia.

Courtesy of Charles Onians of the Independent, we were told that, "within a few years winter snowfall will become 'a very rare and exciting event'". Sledges, snowmen, snowballs and the excitement of waking to find that the stuff has settled outside were all a rapidly diminishing part of Britain's culture.

In an attempt to save the paper from embarrassment, the report is missing from its carefully nurtured archive. But these people never seem to understand that the internet never forgets. It can be found on the Wayback Machine, there for all time to mock the innocence of climate scientists.

From this debacle, however, these innocents have learnt their lesson. Instead of making predictions that can be falsified in the space of a few years, they now point to years in the distant future. That way no one can call them out until they are safely retired.

A classic example of this tendency now graces the Guardian, telling us: "Rain to replace snow in the Arctic as climate heats, study finds", with the sub-heading: "Climate models show switch will happen decades faster than previously thought, with 'profound' implications".

At the very least, one has to acknowledge the chutzpah. As reports from the Arctic tell of a healthy ice-extent, and an increasing trend since 2012, Michelle McCrystall, at the University of Manitoba in Canada, has been leading "new research", using "the latest climate models" to predict that with all the Arctic's land and almost all its seas will be receiving more rain than snow before the end of the century if the world warms by 3ºC.

No doubt this scary story has been produces to keep the faithful pushing for their 1.5 ºC by the turn of the century. But, to up the ante, the period when the rain starts has been cut from 2090, as previously predicted, to an earlier but still safe 2060 or 2070. It is then that the autumn rains it the central Arctic will become rain dominated if carbon emissions are not cut.

Impacts for the region are, of course, dire. They include the melting of vital ice roads, more floods, and starvation for herds of animals. When rain falls on snow and then freezes, it stops the animals feeding. Reindeer, caribou and musk oxen won't be able to break through the layer of ice, so they won't get to the grass they need to survive and will suffer huge die-offs, says McCrystall.

Not to be outdone, though, the modern-day Independent has moved away from snow (and rain) predictions and is now telling us "why climate change could make flights a whole lot bumpier".

The layer of atmosphere closest to Earth, the troposphere – we are diligently informed - has been rising by around 164ft per decade because of climate change. Interestingly, the paper has failed to convert this into metric, possibly because 164ft sounds more impressive than 50 metres.

According to the paper, it is in the troposphere that all the turbulence occurs, as opposed to the stratosphere above it, where passenger jets tend to fly in search of smoother air. So now, it seems, aircraft will have to fly, on average, 164ft higher otherwise their passengers may occasionally get a bumpier ride.

Even this paper, though, admits that the troposphere varies in depth from five to nine miles (approximately 25-50,000 ft), so one wonders how these wondrous climate scientists manage to estimate an impossibly accurate figure of 164ft.

Nevertheless, Bill Randel, a scientist at the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR), has no uncertainties about what this all means. He calls it an "unambiguous sign" of changing atmospheric structure, the study which calculated the magic figure providing "independent confirmation", in addition to all the other evidence of climate change, "that greenhouse gases are altering our atmosphere".

However, this pales into insignificance compared with the news that divorce rates amongst albatrosses are increasing due to climate change. These seabirds are known for their loyal monogamous relationships, with only 1-3 percent of pairs separating. But now, according to a new Royal Society study, the warming water temperature has pushed up the separation rate to 8 percent.

Researchers, we are told, say lack of food due to warming waters, working longer hours to find food, and logistical difficulties faced by a travelling partner, may cause stress hormones to rise and eventually lead to break-ups.

In the same vein, climate change has caused older seal mothers to give birth to pups earlier. This observation, we are told, favours a hypothesis that climate affects phenology by altering the age profile of the population.

Warmer years are also associated with an older average age of mothers, the scientists found. Grey seals typically start breeding around 5 years old and can continue for several decades after. But the older the seals got, the earlier they gave birth.

Then there is the dreaded news that polar bears are inbreeding due to melting sea ice, posing risk to survival of the species. Despite earlier predictions that the species has been on the verge of extinction, ever since Al Gore took an interest in climate change, it seems they are not dying out fast enough. In fact, rather embarrassingly, overall numbers are increasing. Global population is now almost 30,000 – up from about 26,000 in 2015.

Thus, "scientists" are having to turn to a loss of genetic diversity, brought about by the "rapid disappearance of Arctic sea ice". As the ice has melted, the polar bears' habitat has become fragmented, resulting in an equally rapid increase in genetic isolation and inbreeding among regions due to reduced contact with polar bears from the outside.

Meanwhile, as much of the country has just been through a period of early snow – with more forecast - the chief executive of Shelter, Polly Neate, is warning that homeless people "are feeling the awful effects of flooding and heatwaves". Horror of horrors, rough sleepers have even had their tents washed away in flash floods this summer.

The point to take on board from all this is that, even while other events dominate the headlines, this sort of climate dribble goes on – a steady drumbeat of alarmist stories with no apparent attempt to filter out the many absurdities and contradictions.

With such endless propaganda, it is unsurprising that so many people are gulled into thinking that the end of the world is nigh. The Guardian piece, though, is one to savour. If Wayback Machine still exists in 2060 or 2070, it would be such fun to revisit today's piece and see if it betters Onians for its predictions.

Also published on Turbulent Times.

Richard North 01/12/2021 link

Climate change: government contempt

Tuesday 30 November 2021  

A full month after we launched our "net zero" petition, the government has finally responded to our demand for a referendum – as it was obliged to do.

It is fair to say that our expectations of this response were never high, so we cannot say that we are in any way disappointed. The government has simply behaved as expected, expressing its usual degree of contempt for voters and the principles of democracy.

In short, its refusal to consider a referendum rests on a single, apparently newly-minted principle, that: "National referendums are a mechanism to endorse major constitutional change".

Certainly it is the case that the referendums held so far in the UK have dealt with major constitutional issues. But there is nothing in law or framed in any constitutional instrument which prevents their use for other purposes.

Therefore, the government's case rests on is subordinate assertion that, "debates about national policy are best determined through Parliamentary democracy and the holding of elections". That too has no legal or constitutional provenance and stands as no more than a matter of opinion – and one based on extraordinarily fragile assumptions.

The first of these, of course, is the very existence of "Parliamentary democracy" – the idea that parliamentarians necessarily (or at all) represent the will of the people, or indeed are even acting in their interests. As we have long averred, "Parliamentary" is to democracy as "wooden" is to leg. The only genuine expression of democracy is direct democracy, of which the referendum is a fundamental part.

As to the holding of elections as a means of determining or approving national policy, this surely must be a joke. Specifically, in this country, national elections are used to choose MPs and, through them, the government.

For sure, governments (usually) produce manifestos prior to elections, but they are not bound by them, and nor are the restricted by them. Crucially, such is the range of issues included in the typical manifesto that it could not be rightly said that voters will necessarily agree with them all.

However, in its detailed response, the government makes great play of the have that it "made a key manifesto commitment to reach 'Net Zero by 2050 with investment in clean energy solutions and green infrastructure to reduce carbon emissions and pollution'". It was, it says, one of the top six pledges in the government's manifesto, alongside policy commitments to help achieve the target.

To then assert that this gives the government a mandate to act is, to say the very least, disingenuous – another way of saying "thoroughly dishonest". As is well recorded, the 2019 election turned on one issue and one issue alone – Johnson's pledge to "get Brexit done". Those who voted for this cannot be said in any way to have endorsed "net zero". Many fundamentally opposed it, and still do.

Equally to the point though, all three main parties – which could realistically form a government or be part of one – supported the principle of "net zero". Therefore, if the holding of elections is seen as a means of determining or approving national policy, then the 2019 election was an egregious failure. The electorate were not offered a meaningful choice – whichever government they had elected, the policy would have been much the same.

Despite this, the government tells us that the "net zero target" was passed into law by Parliament with strong cross-party support, as if this was an affirmation of its "democratic" credentials. It has learned nothing from the Brexit referendum, where remaining in the EU also had "strong cross-party support" yet MPs were at variance with the majority of those who voted to leave.

Presumably seeking to shore up a weak case, though, the government moves on to tell us that "it is clear that public concern about climate change is high, having doubled since 2016". Citing a BEIS Public Attitudes Tracker (Wave 37, 2021), it asserts that 80 percent of people in the UK were either "concerned" or "very concerned".

But, given the torrent of publicity on global warming, this finding is hardly surprising. Once again, though, the government is being disingenuous. Concern about global warming does not translate directly – or at all – to approval of measures to deal with it, such as "net zero".

Even the assertion that people and businesses "recognise that change must happen", with the claim that 80 percent of respondents in a recent survey "believe the way we live our lives will need to change to address climate change", does not comprise a mandate for the "net zero" agenda.

Nevertheless, relying on the same survey (BEIS, Climate change and net zero: public awareness and perceptions, 2021), the government asserts that – in the artificial circumstances of "being provided with information on net zero", 78 percent of all participants said they "strongly" or "somewhat" supported the "net zero" target.

Yet this propaganda exercise amounts to nothing more than an abuse of statistics. When the survey examined participants' knowledge of "net zero", 13 percent know nothing about it, 18 percent knew "hardly anything", 30 percent knew "a little" about it, 30 percent "a fair amount", and 9 percent "a lot".

On that basis, only 39 percent were even in a position to offer an informed opinion while the majority (61 percent) were not. Only after the survey provided participants with a brief statement "clarifying what net zero is" were their views sought on whether they supported or opposed the target. That statement amounted to:
The UK government has set a target for reducing UK carbon emissions to "net zero" by 2050. By achieving "net zero" emissions, the UK will no longer contribute to climate change. This will involve significantly reducing emissions from many different activities, such as driving cars, the food we eat, and the electricity we use. Any remaining carbon emissions would be balanced out by technologies and actions that reduce greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.
There was no mention of banning gas boilers, and forcing people to buy massively expensive and unreliable heat pumps, nor anything about the electric vehicle programme, nor about the attendant risks of power failures or any of the potential downsides.

This being the government's substantive case for refusing a referendum, it then moves on to eulogising about the advantages of "moving away from fossil fuels and towards net zero". That it again offers none of the downsides is possibly one of the strongest arguments for a referendum when the issues would be openly debates.

But what we then get stretches credulity to breaking point. "Recent volatile international gas prices have demonstrated that we need to reduce our reliance on fossil fuels", says the government. "We need to protect consumers and businesses from global gas prices by increasing our domestic energy security through clean power that is generated in the UK for the people of the UK".

Yet, in the real world, the reason why we are vulnerable to massively increased gas prices is because of the governments reckless and premature destruction of our coal-fired generation capacity, and the successive failures of our nuclear plant replacement programme.

This has left us with an unbalanced generation fleet where we are excessively and dangerously reliant on gas generation to make up for the inherent unreliability of renewables. More reliance on renewables (which is what is intended) would simply make the problem worse.

These worst of this, though, is that we are not even being taken for fools. Rather, we have fools in government who actually believe their own propaganda.

Picking through the rest of the propaganda, we then come to a paragraph which is pure Goebbels. "Transitioning to net zero", the government claims, "is not about telling people what to do or stopping people doing things; it's about giving them the support they need to do the same things they do now but in a more sustainable way".

In any sense that any ordinary person might understand this claim, the government is lying. Progressively, it intends to ban the use of gas boilers, thereby stopping people from using the most cost-effective form of domestic heating available. It is to force people to increase insulation in their houses, even where inappropriate. It is intending to ban cars with internal combustion engines, forcing us to buy massively more expensive and unreliable electric cars, or resort to walking, cycling or public transport.

And this, it tells us, is "to get a head start on this worldwide green industrial revolution and ensure UK industries, workers and the wider public benefit" – on the day after heavy, and unseasonably early snowfall (pictured), where the media have gone strangely silent on the perils of global warming.

But, as long as the government can avoid a referendum, it can lie, dissimulate and propagandise to its heart's content, aided and abetted by a corrupt media. The very last thing Johnson wants is an open debate on "net zero" or a public vote. We, the plebs, should know our place. Our task is to suck on the tit of government propaganda – and believe.

Thus are we regarded with contempt. But the government needs to be careful. The feeling is mutual and growing in intensity.

Also published on Turbulent Times.

Richard North 30/11/2021 link

Immigration: going home

Monday 29 November 2021  

I've already posted the definition of a refugee from the Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees, but let me do it again. It is a person who:
… owing to well-founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion, is outside the country of his nationality and is unable or, owing to such fear, is unwilling to avail himself of the protection of that country, or is unable or, is unwilling to return to it.
Now let's have a little gander at The Sunday Times which yesterday, amid its other coverage of the events on Wednesday, has a piece entitled: "If you lived like us in Kurdistan, you might risk it all to reach Britain".

This, as indicated by the title, explains why some people from the autonomous region of Iraqi Kurdistan are so keen to come to the UK, and it begins with this passage:
Every summer, in their small town in the Kurdish region of Iraq, Dana Mohammed, 20, and his brother, Arav, would meet local people who had left years before and made the journey to the UK. They would come back to Ranya on holiday, wearing nice clothes, and talk about how good life was in Britain compared with home, where corruption, repression and poverty make life hard and work very difficult to find.
Frustratingly, the piece doesn't specify how these "local people who had left years before and made the journey to the UK" had got to the UK, and under what terms, but given UK immigration rules, it is safe to assume that they presented themselves as asylum seekers, gained refugee status and then successfully applied for and were granted leave to remain.

With that, let us paraphrase some the key elements of the refugee definition, specifically, that there has to be a "well-founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion", and that the people are unable or, owing to such fear, are unwilling to unwilling to return to the country of their nationality.

On that basis, people who have come to the UK, made a new life there, and then felt able to return to their country of origin for holidays, are not – by definition – refugees. If they entered the UK on those grounds, then they must have lied to the UK immigration authorities, in order conceal their true status.

That true status begins to come clearer from the next part of the ST piece, which moves on to tell us that:
For young people with ambition, the brothers believed, there was little prospect of a future there. When Dana asked a local smuggler about going to the UK himself, he was told that it was easy, so he set off. It was not easy, it turned out. But this month he made it across the Channel on a small boat. Now he is in the UK. If he is granted leave to stay in the country, he will start to work and send money back to his family.
Here, though, is an interesting comment: "When Dana asked a local smuggler about going to the UK himself, he was told that it was easy, so he set off". As it turns out, the "smuggler" was not telling the truth, but it was enough for Dana to launch his expedition.

In the next part, we see an intervention from the piece author, Louise Callaghan, the paper's Middle East Correspondent. She suggests that "when we think of people coming to Europe, we might picture refugees fleeing bombs raining down on their homes". Or, she writes: "we might think of economic migrants, who leave their country solely to find a better job elsewhere".

Mirroring Parris's observation from his column, though, she asserts that: "Often, reality lies somewhere in the middle, where need and opportunity meet". Repression, corruption and poverty, she says, "drive people to look to Europe for a better life: a smuggler provides the service". Understandable though this might be, it seems to be a long way from people being driven from their country by so great a fear that they dare not return.

If there is any doubt as to the motivation, this is dispelled by a quotation from Arav, brother of Dana, the pair having finished secondary school, only to find that there were no prospects for them. "People don't have an income here, they have no opportunities", he is cited as saying: "We're young and can't find any opportunities, so we try to go to a country that gives us an opportunity to be independent and take care of ourselves and make a living", adding, "If we stay here we’ll never become anything".

Note that there is no reference to be being driven out of the country by a "well-founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion". The motivation is entirely economic.

Callaghan acknowledges that there is "no active conflict in most parts of the region, and people are not starving to death". But, she says, "for those without connections to the ruling class, many young people say, the nepotism means that it is very difficult to advance in life". Just because you are not going to die, as one university graduate told her, does not mean that you do not want to live.

She then refers to unspecified "rights groups" who claim that, in the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) area, there is no free local press and little freedom of expression. In Sulaymaniyah, an eastern city, thousands took to the streets last week to protest against what they say is rampant corruption. They were met with violence from the authorities.

Unemployment, we are told, is endemic. Many poor families survive on remittances sent home by relatives in Europe. One cousin with a steady job in Birmingham can keep many heads above the water.

However, Masrour Barzani, prime minister of the KRG, described as a "multibillionaire" does get a word in edgeways. He dismisses the claim that his people were desperate to leave. "Many want to go to Europe in search of a different opportunity", he is quoted as saying. "It's not a flight of desperation. I hope the world knows that these people went there like every other immigrant wants to travel and go in search of different parts of the world. But if they want to return, they can always return here".

That last statement is, in fact, supported by the piece, which returns us to the motivation for travel. Like people around the world, Callaghan writes, young Kurds in Iraq have mobile phones that allow them to access the internet and see how people in other countries live. They can see that life is better elsewhere.

Concluding her piece with a further reference to brother Arav, Callaghan has him say: "If I had the money for it I'd leave tomorrow in any way. I believe if you came from the UK and experienced living here like a local, you'd hate it and try to leave, too".

However, only a few days ago, Radio Free Europe was reporting that 600 Iraqis stranded for weeks on the Belarus-Poland border have returned home on repatriation flights organised by the Iraqi government (one family pictured).

Most of these are Kurds, misled by Belarus propaganda and the lies of the smugglers. And, as Iraqi Foreign Ministry spokesman Ahmad al-Sahaf says that these citizens were being "voluntarily repatriated", with more flights planned, we can assume that none of them are unable or unwilling to return to their home country.

None of these Kurds, it would seem, have applied for asylum in Belarus and they are returning home because the Polish government would not let them cross their border into the EU.

And there are multiple lessons for the French and British governments. Any people who identify as Iraqi Kurds – possibly with some very rare exceptions - are not refugees. They are economic migrants.

By stamping down on smugglers, the French government could reduce the attractiveness of the Channel route, and those migrants who are intercepted can be legally repatriated to Iraq. For the British, any that arrive here should be put on an aircraft to Iraq with minimum delay.

What one must ask, therefore, is why – at least in respect of Iraqi Kurds – this migration is happening at all. In a matter of weeks, the Polish government stopped it dead. Yet the governments of two powerful, mature nations, seem powerless in the face of a flotilla of rubber boats, procured by criminal gangs.

I think we are entitled to know what is going on.

Also published on Turbulent Times.

Richard North 29/11/2021 link

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The Many, Not the Few