The latest scandal to engulf Britain’s energy policy is the discovery that while banning fracking in the UK to ensure energy insecurity and vulnerability to Russian natural-gas blackmail, the British government has been subsidizing fracking in China. The sums aren’t large, just £87,000. But what on Earth is behind the idea?
It’s a very peculiar environmental policy because China is a major problem for those who would control GHG emissions. It’s not just that it pumps the stuff out in ever-larger amounts as its economy expands and builds coal plants at a blistering pace, though it does. It’s that the Chinese government refuses to take much responsibility for its behaviour and, on the rare occasions when it seems to do so, it lies. Thus researchers including a British lead author recently traced surprisingly elevated levels of a supposedly banned ozone-destroying refrigerant, Chlorofluorocarbon (CFC) 11 in East Asia back to, of all places, China.
The government in Beijing of course pronounced itself shocked, shocked, to find shoddy corner-cutting practices and commercial dishonesty within its borders and promised to crack down. But its promises are worthless even on the rare occasions that they’re sincere because the regime is incompetent and crooked.
It’s not obvious what to do about China’s appalling environmental record, just as it’s not clear what to do about its ham-fisted geopolitical adventurism or domestic tyranny. But surely somebody, somewhere can figure out that subsidizing it even with small amounts is not appropriate.
We won’t belabour the point that getting rid of the secure, affordable energy on which your economy and way of life depend is foolish, especially if it weakens you geopolitically. At some point it almost seems to become a point of pride to ignore consequences. But as so often, the concept that we must abandon fossil fuels or perish seems to be applied inconsistently, with the main focus our own failings and little concern, or even enthusiasm, for those regimes hostile to us.