In keeping with Oscar Wilde’s dictum that “The only way to get rid of a temptation is to yield to it”, the Manhattan Contrarian begs California and New York not to back off on their green dreams. It’s probably unnecessary advice but, like Wilde, the Contrarian has an important point. The only way to tell whether unicorn power can replace the boring stodgy old kind is for some sucker to leap on the back of this wondrous beast and gallop as far as it can go. We concede that even all its failings to date will not persuade the zealots, who will insist that it worked even when they sail through thin air to a rude landing. But if a large part of the public can only learn what should be a simple lesson by watching someone else come to grief, the sooner they do so the better.
If this approach seems unduly sardonic, we would note the Contrarian’s point in a separate post that it is amazing that so many people would be gambling the well-being and even the lives of their fellow citizens on an energy transition for which no pilot projects of any sort have been done. He observes with what might once have been called commendable “Precautionary Principle” prudence that when it comes to running a modern economy on “fossil-fuel-free” energy:
“There are very substantial reasons to think that big problems are inevitable, the main one being that wind and solar generators don’t produce anything most of the time, and can’t be ramped up on demand at a time of need. So surely, there must be multiple small to medium-scale demonstration projects around the world showing exactly how this fossil-fuel-free future system can be accomplished, and how much it will cost.”
On the face of it, it would be insane even to endorse such a thing, let alone implement it, without this kind of basic verification. And yet he goes on to answer his own question:
“Actually, and incredibly, no. There is no such thing anywhere in the world as a functioning demonstration project that provides full energy to an economy of any size without reliance on fossil fuels, and using only carbon-emissions-free sources like wind, solar, hydro and/or storage. There isn’t even a demonstration project that supplies just the electricity sector of any economy (typically about 25-35% of final energy usage) with the energy it needs free of fossil fuels. Indeed, there isn’t anything remotely close.”
What there is, of course, is a number of instances where even the first steps in such a direction have brought unmistakable signs of catastrophe. Or perhaps unmistakable is too strong a word.
Governor Gavin Newsom certainly shows no sign whatsoever of recognizing that his policy is in any kind of trouble and modifying it, let alone seeing that it’s a failure and giving it up. Rather, to borrow another line, one Barbara Tuchman quoted about Philip II of Spain, “No experience of the failure of his policy could shake his belief in its essential excellence.” Instead, signing the “most aggressive” climate measures in America to “accelerate” California’s transition to unreliable energy, Newsom explained of his latest massive package of rules and spending, “This week’s unprecedented heat wave is a painful reminder of the costs and impacts of climate change – and it won’t be the last. California is taking aggressive action to combat the climate crisis and build resilience in our most vulnerable communities, including a comprehensive strategy to protect Californians from extreme heat. With lives and livelihoods on the line, we cannot afford to delay.” It’s like the captain of the Titanic ordering full speed ahead following the initial impact.
Certainly the claque of media alarmists, sitting in air-conditioned offices and homes lecturing the poor about the evils of energy abundance, are not having second thoughts. But as the Contrarian explains, “The context of this plea [to stay the course and discover what will happen] is that, of the four jurisdictions in the world that are the leaders in the push to 100% green energy – California, New York, the UK, and Germany – two of them – the UK and Germany – are giving strong signals that they are ready to cry “Uncle!” and back off on the plans.” What’s more, “the UK and Germany are backing off at the earliest indications of encountering even modestly serious challenges to the achievement of their utopian goals.” And as a result we may never find out what might have been:
“If all the jurisdictions that are leaders of the green energy campaign back off their schemes as soon as the going starts to get even a little tough, then the zealots will forever maintain their narrative that the schemes would have worked, and would have led us to utopia, if only we had given them a decent chance. It will be no different from the evergreen narrative of the true-believing socialist: ‘Real socialism has never actually been tried yet.’’’
Given the misery that would ensue, and already has in places like Sri Lanka, we ourselves would prefer that they dump this load of intellectual rubbish onto the dust heap of history with a full retraction and apology. Even plowing ahead with massive reductions in fertilizer use in wealthy countries is going to cause enough pain to educate all but the most wilfully obtuse… if they and not their hapless subjects feel that pain.
The Contrarian also utters a taunt worth repeating. Thus far “The UK and Germany have only had the first little taste…They have as yet seen almost no serious blackouts, and costs have just inched into the range of maybe three to four times those from mostly fossil fuel systems. Is that kind of little blip enough to get you to walk away after decades of shouting ‘existential crisis’? This is embarrassing.”
It is. The inflated rhetoric of politicians and activists is no less culpable for being familiar, including Newsom’s “unprecedented heat wave” and “aggressive action” and “build resilience in our most vulnerable communities” and “a comprehensive strategy to protect Californians from extreme heat” and “we cannot afford to delay.” Not for him “we should probably do this” or “we think it will help in some ways, but don’t expect miracles”. No. He saves personkind three times a week.
Thus of course “The climate crisis is not ‘gender neutral’ – it exacerbates existing inequalities, leaving women & girls to experience unique threats to their livelihoods, health & safety.” And over at Canary Media they insist that “Against this backdrop, politicians and other stakeholders may suggest that climate and the energy transition shouldn’t be a top priority. But we know that’s not the case.” We invite readers to try to guess the context. But it won’t be easy, because they sound this way all the time.
Obviously it’s not just climate even if it’s hard to keep that one out of almost anything now. Wild pledges to, say, “end hunger” in America have been staples since Nixon was president, another insight we owe to the Manhattan Contrarian. But unless they want to admit to being chronic and wilful blatherskites, they owe us some kind of explanation for backing away so quickly. As we ourselves have said about the massive costs of various green schemes, if the alternative really is that mankind perishes amid fire, flood, drought, famine and pestilence, then we must steel ourselves and pay them. It seems we are once again off-side with the orthodoxy.
We cannot blame the New York Times from blanching at the discovery that “Across Central Europe, companies are clear-cutting forests and grinding up centuries-old trees in the name of renewable energy.” But we can ask them for some clarity on the questions of “Are you saying renewable energy isn’t worth it after all, or is this kind not ‘real’ renewable energy?” and “If it saves us from climate breakdown, what’s a few trees, or were you just blathering about the severity of the situation?”
The Wilde quotation, from “The Picture of Dorian Gray“, continues “Resist it, and your soul grows sick with longing for the things it has forbidden to itself, with desire for what its monstrous laws have made monstrous and unlawful.” But it is coming from a very bad influence, Lord Henry Wotton. The real point is that it is only by giving in to a temptation that we may discover what disappointment or even disaster lurks behind its alluring façade.