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Battling models

02 Nov 2022 | OP ED Watch

In response to our items noting the debacle of a push for alternative energy from Germany to California, some viewers have suggested that wind power has been very successful in parts of the United States including Iowa. Good for Iowa, although all our usual caveats about reliability and the need for backups apply there too. On which note we insist that rational debaters take note also of conditions in Haiti and Ukraine, two countries in very different circumstances and a great distance apart but where the vital role of reliable energy is horribly on display. In long-suffering Haiti, the damage from a hurricane has been compounded by the chronic lawlessness in the specific form of gangsters blockading a fuel terminal, resulting in mass famine. The blockade in Haiti illustrates, besides the human capacity for depravity, the crucial role of fossil fuel energy in our way of life or in some cases its continuing at all. And in Ukraine, Putin’s deliberate targeting of energy and heat, as well as water, shows that he understands all too well what they do.

The UN estimates that some four million people in Haiti face “acute food insecurity” which we imagine is how sociologists and bureaucrats say “starvation”. And note that there are fewer than 12 million Haitians.

As for the general folly of Western leaders, well, as in the old Yes Minister gag, the answer to the question of what they do not know is that it could be almost anything. The New York Times just ran a story saying “As President Biden planned a politically risky trip to Saudi Arabia this summer, his top aides thought they had struck a secret deal to boost oil production through the end of the year. Then, despite Mr. Biden’s visit, Saudi leaders did the opposite.” But why would Mr. Biden be urging foreign countries to help destroy the planet?

If America needs oil, he could make it easier to produce at home, or uncancel Keystone XL and let the U.S. bring it in from friendly, democratic Canada, whose leaders also think oil is destroying the world. But if renewables are working, who wants oil, especially the kind you get from homophobic tyrants in return for money they will spend to undermine your geopolitical interests? Unless they figure they can get even more of it by holding down production and pushing up prices while you do the same?

In an especially weird move, even by the standards of Western energy policy and recent British politics, new UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has decided to reinstitute the ban on fracking (in flagrant contradiction of his pledges while running for the leadership way back before the Liz Truss incident) while demoting two environment ministers (including telling one he was still minister but couldn’t attend cabinet meetings which seems rather odd), skipping COP27 and apparently preventing the King from going even though Charles III is, the Times insists, “champing at the bit” to go. Although Sunak is sending three cabinet ministers to COP27 so no fears on the carbon footprint front. And in another odd burst of enthusiasm for kings who rule as well as reign that would thrill the ghost of Robert Filmer, from an unexpected source, U.S. climate envoy John Kerry reproached the British Prime Minister for not letting the King go and make policy on his behalf, saying “I think it would be terrific, personally. I know that his being there would make a difference… because he has credibility because he's been a long-term leader. I think it would be very powerful.”

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