“Is the political class’s obsession with global warming rotting their brains?” asks Christopher Booker in a must-read piece for the Daily Mail.
To which the answer, obviously, is “Duh.”
Booker focuses on the disastrous policies, introduced by successive UK governments, encouraging people to burn more wood.
Apparently – or so the fashionable theory briefly ran – this pre-industrial technology was much more eco-friendly than coal- or gas-fired power and would thus help save the planet from the global warming.
Except of course, it hasn’t:
Wood is ‘sustainable’, we were told. It gives off less CO2 than any other heating. It will help us save the planet and meet CO2 reduction targets under the Climate Change Act.As a result of these persuasive arguments, about 1.5 million British homes have wood-burning stoves and 200,000 more are sold every year.Now we learn that wood-burning is the single biggest source of tiny soot particles called PM2.5s — they are also emitted by burning coal and diesel — which go into our lungs and are said to be responsible for an estimated 37,800 premature deaths a year.
Given these horrific facts, why have governments in recent years made wood-burning such a core part of energy policy? For there is no doubt ministers have been desperate to encourage it.
Actually, those pollution death estimates should probably be taken with a pinch of salt. The far bigger problem, as Booker goes on to note, is just how outrageously uneconomical it all is.
Only last week we had a withering report from MPs on the Public Accounts Committee about the failings of something called the ‘Renewable Heat Incentive’, a scheme launched in 2011 by Chris Huhne when he was Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change.
The idea was to offer lavish subsidies to businesses and homeowners to cut their ‘carbon emissions’, and save on energy bills, by centrally heating their premises by burning wood pellets. Participants could only qualify if they installed specific expensive renewable heating systems — as opposed to wood-burners bought by homeowners simply trying to be eco-friendly.
The MPs found that, although the scheme will cost taxpayers a staggering £23 billion in subsidies in the next 20 years, the high upfront costs meant take-up has been shamefully low.
In Northern Ireland, it has brought the local government to the brink of bankruptcy:
A version of the scheme — with even more lavish subsidies — ran so totally out of control in Northern Ireland in 2016 that it led to the downfall of the government there, sparking a political crisis that, 17 months later, is not resolved.
The crisis arose from the discovery that its subsidy bill had already hit £500 million and by 2020 was due to top £1 billion.
So generous was the Northern Irish scheme to businesses, offering £160 for every £100 they spent on wood chips, that firms used it to heat disused warehouses and long-empty offices, knowing the more they spent on wood chips the greater their profit would be.
Some users of the scheme kept heating systems running flat out night and day because they made such a profit from the subsidy scheme.
Gosh, who would have ever imagined it? If you build stupidly generous subsidies, they will come.
And we haven’t got to the even-more-stupid part yet. The absurdity whereby Britain’s largest power station, Drax, now derives a good chunk of its fuel from burning American forests.
Millions of tonnes of wood pellets are now needed by Drax every year, and since it is impossible to supply that quantity domestically, vast amounts of pellets are shipped 3,500 miles to Yorkshire from the U.S., where forests are destroyed to supply them.
As with the Government’s endorsement of wood-burning stoves and its Renewable Heat Incentive scheme, the idea behind Drax’s conversion to wood pellets is that burning trees or ‘biomass’ is ‘carbon neutral’ because eventually new, CO2-absorbing trees will grow to replace the ones that have been felled.
Yet a series of studies has confirmed what should have been obvious. It takes decades to grow a mature CO2-absorbing tree to replace a CO2-producing tree that can be cut down in seconds. Far from cutting Drax’s CO2 emissions, the largest power station in Britain gives off even more CO2 than when it just burnt coal.
Even the most ardent green activist groups have protested that chopping down millions of acres of forest in America to fuel a system that ends up chucking out more CO2 is an absurd ecological disaster.
This scam costs the UK taxpayer £800 million in subsidies. It’s not much good for those American forests either.
But, of course, the bigger story here goes far beyond wood. It applies to pretty much every environmental policy there is – the EU-driven replacement of petrol- with diesel-driven cars; palm oil plantations replacing rainforest; biofuels and ethanol mandates; bat-chomping bird-slicing eco crucifixes…
In every case, the political class – bullied and terrified by a minority of jabbering green campaigners – has forced through expensive, illiberal knee-jerk policies which have turned out to do far more harm to the environment than good.
So yes, as Booker says, politicians’ brains have been rotted by their obsession with climate change.
The current administration in the United States is a rare exception to this rule. But that’s only a recent development. Until Trump came along, the U.S. was at least as much in thrall to the prevailing green lunacy as any other Western nation. That, after all, is the nature of mass hysteria: it infects pretty much everyone.