The reliably frivolous Gerry Butts tweets “The energy transition is going to be bumpy, part eleventy billion” as if people like him had been telling us so all along rather than promising the opposite. But certainly it is proving so hard as to be nonexistent. In the United States, for instance, the government has managed to spent vast sums and trigger a worldwide subsidy and tariff war. But as for actual results, a recent Energy Information Administration study “ANNUAL ENERGY OUTLOOK 2023“ (called a “Narrative” for some postmodern reason) dressed up with a lot of pretty pictures the message that said basically nothing would change by 2050. There’s a lot of talk of a “transition”, and a lot of enthusiasm for it. There’s just no transition.
The Economist, keeping a stiff upper chin with some difficulty, hyped “America’s chance to become a clean-energy superpower” only to concede that “Getting the most ambitious energy and climate laws in American history through Congress was not easy. Now comes the hard part”. The one where you stop yapping, keep spending and have it work for a change.
In what could be the understatement of the whole climate policy mess, a newsletter from Nature that suddenly made water the top climate priority, along with everything else, said “A group of water and climate specialists write that ‘the gap between articulation and action urgently needs to be bridged’.” But if they could walk like that, they would have by now.
Still, Statista insists that:
“Wind and solar power accounted for 12 percent of global electricity in 2022, according to Ember’s fourth annual Global Electricity Review, published today. This rises to 39 percent when combined with other renewables and nuclear…. Data shows that there’s been significant progress in the production of solar and wind power over the past two decades. In 2022, solar added a record of 245 TWh of generation in 2022, while wind added a record 312 TWh - together accounting for 80 percent of the world’s increased need for electricity that year. While this is a move in the right direction, coal and other fossil fuels were still needed to meet the world’s overall growing need for electricity.”
There is however much less to this, and the accompanying chart, than meets the eye. Since it is almost exclusively governments that commission power plants, and governments have bought into the climate crisis that coincidentally gives them more money and power, they are choosing to invest in wind and solar to a far greater degree than prudence suggests. Or at least they were.
Even Statista admits that wind and solar, despite being the power of choice when there is a choice, are only at 12% of generated power, with nuclear and “other” more than twice as high at 27% though they didn’t spell it out. But the irony that Westerners are buying solar panels manufactured with coal-generated electricity seems lost on them.
So of course President Biden, convinced he’s faster than a speeding bullet and able to leap tall buildings with a single bound, or maybe even fly and use heat vision to melt obstacles, just:
“signed an executive order directing every single federal agency to work toward ‘environmental justice for all’ and improve the lives of communities hit hardest by toxic pollution and climate change.”
After all, it’s so easy, and going so well. So Biden’s also using the regulatory process to bypass grubby voters and their representatives and get rid of internal combustion engines, conventional power plants, and planet-destroying dishwashers.
It’s not just climate, of course. The New York Times will run a story saying stuff like “President Biden is trying to appeal to working-class voters by emphasizing his plans to create well-paid jobs that do not require a college degree” without any editor asking whether some elected official can simply wave his pen at the $20-trillion, highly intricate American economy with its enormously diverse, convoluted labour markets, and restructure them with his mind. But when they try, the results are so consistently disappointing that at some point you’d think somebody would wonder whether politicians really have super powers.