back to article Green energy and jobs will cripple the UK economy

The UK's headlong rush into renewable energy – one ignored by the rest of the world – will hit British jobs and then general incomes, an economic study finds. The report, The Myth of Green Jobs by economist Professor Gordon Hughes of Edinburgh University, examines the long-term impacts of subsidising expensive "green" …


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  1. MGJ

    Compared to what

    As opposed to the funding of the military industrial sector, where we create lots of useless tat at huge prices per job, like building aircraft carriers with no planes on them.

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    1. Graham Dawson Silver badge


      Because insulting your ideological opponents is so much better than addressing their arguments.

    2. Captain Save-a-ho

      Nice but

      there's not really much comparison between the theory of evolution, which is virtually scientific fact based on 150+ years of research, and the theory of anthropomorphic-driven climate change, which has lots of correlation but no smoking guns from less than 30 years of research. Even as a skeptic, I'm willing to admit there's a definite possibility that real evidence could show human involvement. I do openly question the degree of human involvement as opposed to solar wind/cosmic rays, volcanos, etc.

    3. Anonymous Coward

      Not really

      "Evolution" is the best explanatory theory we have of speciation. It's rational science.

      The global warming hypothesis, on the other hand, depends on the existence of huge unproven positive feedbacks from additional CO2 and methane. These positive feedbacks based on hand-waving but with no empirical support. Climate sensitivity (a doubling of CO2) should increase global temperatures by 0.7C-1C. Observation evidence suggests these may be negative.

      Positing anything else is superstition - not rational science.

      The difference was probably not explained to you in your Sustainability Classes.

  3. Kenno

    Will the last person to leave turn out the lights?

    Oh wait we won't need to turn out the lights.....

  4. PyLETS

    fallacious argument proved wrong long time ago

    Can't see any fundamental difference between this argument and that of the Victorian mill owner who argued that manufacturing his chemicals would be cheaper leading to more jobs if he didn't have to pay the cleanup cost of his effluent which poisoned a fishery downstream. When the inheritor of his business was forced to do this in the last century, it didn't prevent chemicals being produced, but it did enable them to be produced with more realistic costs picked up by the purchasers and not the environment (and loss if fishery jobs). Economists call the costs shifted off the balance sheets of the party responsible for them and onto other parties externalities.

    There are limits to how many jobs you want or need in automated manufacturing, the energy production sector or mechanised agriculture anyway due to limits to the amount of food, manufactured stuff and energy people will ever really want or need - with the rest of jobs (most jobs since the late 1950ies in the UK) having to be in services. Having higher quality production in these areas rather than just more production based upon shorter product life and higher wastage makes us all better off, so the analysis in this article is directed at encouraging optimisations we don't need at the expense of optimisations we do need.

    1. Charles 9 Silver badge

      But then you hit a wall...

      The fewer people you need for work, the fewer people you can employ. It's like having a 100,000 eligible workers (which is growing due to lack of population controls) and only 80,000 practical jobs available (which is shrinking due to increased efficiencies). With all other markets already balanced, and barring a market disruptor, where do you reach the point where you realize you have a grossly imbalanced labor system?

    2. ChilliKwok

      CO2 = Poisonous Effluent ? Srsly?

      CO2 is a natural trace gas essential for all life on Earth. Plants stop growing and die if CO2 drops below 200ppm. Growth rate increases up to 1500ppm. Current atmospheric levels are only 390ppm. Natural sources are responsible for 96% of annual CO2 emissions. If man-made CO2 has been responsible for some of the mild warming seen last century then it's undoubtedly a good thing: Milder weather, longer growing seasons, less deaths from the cold. We haven't had it this good since the Medieval Warm Period.

    3. Captain Save-a-ho

      Demonstration please

      Rather than compare the current situation to toxic waste pollution, how about you demonstrate why the argument is fallacious (also a date for how long ago it was disproved and by whom would help). No need to oversensationalize just to bitch and moan (though typical).

      The real point is that green energy is so unaffordable now (and for the foreseeable future) that the subsidies required will eventually cause a net job loss effect on the whole economy. It's all the externalities you refer to regarding how to make green energy affordable now that's the cause of that.

      1. PyLETS

        @Charles 9: limits to jobs (OT)

        "With all other markets already balanced, and barring a market disruptor, where do you reach the point where you realize you have a grossly imbalanced labor system?"

        Keynes realised that the labour system was grossly imbalanced in the 1930ies and came up with a partial solution. His market disruptor was for government to control money supply to even out the job market imbalances. Even with full Keynsian (i.e. based upon strict interpretation of Keynes' direct writings, not all the drivel so described) policies applied there would probably be an average 5-10% cyclical unemployment, possibly increasing as the economy shifts away from low skill demand towards high skill demand. If you want a further "market disrupter" to correct this level of unemployment, the only approach I'm reasonably aware of and particularly positive about is parallel currencies as proposed by Hayek and Michael Linton, and which the Swiss economy has employed with some effectiveness since the 1940ies using their Wir B2B parallel currency , which may partly explain Switzerland's very high employment averages and very low interest rates.

      2. Craigness


        If this was an attempt to get as many denialist fallacies into a single paragraph then I salute you. If you're serious then I wonder if you've learned how to tie your laces yet.

    4. Adam Foxton

      Not quite

      the remaining jobs don't all have to be in services- if we have an excess of workforce we can use them to create goods for the export market, bringing in money.

  5. jake Silver badge

    Green's not cost effective. It's a scam for the "feelgood" set.

    See Solyndra ...

    1. Craigness


      It will be cost effective when the oil starts to run out. Investing in alternatives now is not cost-effective in the same way as spending 5 years training to be a doctor is not cost-effective. What you really mean is that it is cash flow negative in the short term.

      1. Captain Save-a-ho

        No, cost-effective means it's retarded

        If alternatives only had a 5-year pay back, there would be a lot of people signing up out of genuine interest. Instead, the research highlights the fundamental flaws of the focus on green energy:

        1. Ignores renewable sources available today (like hydroelectric)

        2. Ignores clean sources which are affordable (like nuclear)

        3. Pushes options that aren't reliable (wind) or effective (solar).

        Outside of the two options mentioned as ignored options, precisely what other options are cash-flow positive in the long-term, as all the green options pushed today are only approaching feasibility thanks to huge government subsidies.

        1. Craigness

          Cash flow again

          Medical school has a longer than 5 year payback period, you know! You don't earn 5 years of fees, rent and books on your first day!

          As for alternative energies, they'll all be cash flow positive in the long run, except for nuclear where there is only 80 years of fuel left at current rates. To boot, nuclear is not clean and it produces no more energy during the life of a nuclear power station than it takes to build and decommission the thing, mine the uranium and store it safely for 10,000 years.

          If the only options available to us are not reliable then we'll not be able to rely on a 24-hour energy supply. What could be simpler? We used water, wind and solar before we had oil, and we'll use them again after. Are you thinking of telling me that I want a world where we have no oil and can't rely on a never ending supply of cheap energy? "I suppose you'll be happy then" is a common "argument" amongst those who have not considered humanity's near future, because there is no real argument that we can expect anything else.

          1. Steve Todd

            @Craignes - where did you get that utter tosh

            The whole point of Thorium reactors is that there's lots of it (> 1000 year supply of fuel), the byproducts can't be used to make bombs, they have a much shorter half life than a uranium plant (so high level waste needs nothing like the amount of storage) and can be designed to fail safe (a cooling failure will automatically dump the liquid core - via gravity - to safe storage where activity will fall to normal in about 6 hours).

            Even uranium reactors produce FAR more power than they take to build and decommission. Most of the time and effort is spent in red tape and approvals.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Done properly

        the oil wouldn't run out.

        We have sufficient nuclear fuel to provide energy to the human race for a very, very long time- long enough to get properly into space and so get access to far more sources of energy and materials than we have at the moment.

        We have the capability to create artificial petrol using electricity/water/CO2- meaning we can keep cars, trucks and portable generators running without having to start having wars over Lithium.

        We have sufficient time to get all this sorted before the oil runs out. We have the technical know-how and personnel in the UK to achieve that.

        Renewable power supplies can't provide all of the power needed for this- or if they did, they'd need a lot of further development.

        So which course of action would be prudent? Work with the established tech that can sort our current energy woes, or work with the unproven, massively expensive renewables?

        1. Aitor 1 Silver badge
          IT Angle


          Your post does seem reasonable. Only that what you think and reality are two different things.. at least in energy related topics..

          We do have enough nuclear fuel. Or, better said , we would have if we used breeder reactors, and these are, let's say "not permitted".

          Nuclear fuel can't power our cars and trucks/lorries. Obvious reasons. Nor can Lithium, mainly because we don't have enough. Not with current technology.

          Some renewables CAN provide all the energy we need, but at a high direct cost. Maybe enough to crash our economies.

          As you say, oil won't run out.. it just will be so expensive that noone will be interested in drilling it.

          Unproven renewables are more than 40 years old. And they DO work.

      3. jake Silver badge


        The only problem with your answer is that the whole "green" industry belongs in research labs and/or unis, not in full-blown corporations. It may or may not become profitable, whereas becoming a doctor has a known tried & true outcome (assuming ability of the individual).

        As an example, the shysters who started Solyndra stole megabucks from the American taxpayers, with the intention of making a quick profit. The folks who (ignorantly) went to work for them were further trodden upon (I know 7 or 8 of them, personally) ... Trust me, none of the primary investors at Solyndra lost any money; quite the opposite in fact. Except the U.S. taxpayer, of course.

        (I know, I shouldn't be posting when ElReg has DNS problems, but ...)

      4. Marvin the Martian

        Oil running out or not,

        This winter's (non-renewable) energy prices went up 18%, while those for renewables stayed the same (wind) or fell (solar), with the geopolitical situation of average stability. And the last winter they did the same. So another year or 5 and renewable energy is actually cheaper.

        And manufacturing leaving the UK is usual trend independent of green. You want to keep high-value ones (typically high on design, so relatively low on energy cost vs sales price).

        And the targets are EU-wide, so far from a "UK-only obsession".

      5. Andrew Moore

        I think you might be mistaking...

        ...Green energy with alternative energy.

        1. Craigness


          The only problem with your answer is that the whole "oil" industry belongs in the Pentagon. How much did the war "on terror" in oil-rich Iraq cost? What about the cost to put that pipeline through Afghanistan in 2001? How much did it cost to "free" the people of oil-rich Libya? How much did the taxpayers front up to support Bahrain's freedom movement - seeking freedom in a country which acquiesces to the US demands for oil to be supplied, and supplied in dollars. The cost of oil is far more than the price at the pump, the spills at sea and the CO2 in the atmosphere.

          Ok, that's not the only problem! You're on the internet. It began as a non-profit making taxpayer-funded government exercise and it made the world a heck of a lot better and more efficient. Green tech will do the same.

          1. jake Silver badge


            "You're on the internet. It began as a non-profit making taxpayer-funded government exercise"

            Uh ... No. It began as an exercise in developing a research network to research networking. DARPA funding happened probably 18 months after we had the basics figured out and working.

            "and it made the world a heck of a lot better and more efficient."

            Assumes facts not in evidence.

            "Green tech will do the same."

            Assumes facts not in evidence.

        2. jake Silver badge

          @My post, 08:36

          Greenies, are you watching? What is left of Solyndra has been raided by the FBI ... About 17 hours ago as I type (close to 11PM Pacific time, Thursday the 8th). Not certain why ElReg hasn't reported on it yet.

          So-called "green" is a scam, at best ... and the authorities are starting to figure it out.

      6. Steve Todd

        How many oil fired power stations do we have?

        and what do we do for transport if we don't have enough base load capacity? Sorry folks, the train is cancelled because it's not windy enough.

        We'd be much better off investing in to nuclear (preferably thorium salt) reactors than the vast majority of these renewable schemes.

      7. Ru

        "It will be cost effective when the oil starts to run out"

        Nuclear power will be cost effective then. To be honest, it could be cost effective now but for the amount of hysteria associated with it.

        'Green' power sources have been, are, and likely will always be a terrible, terrible idea in much of the world. The most effective 'renewable' source is Hydro, and that causes colossal ecological damage. Does that count as green? If you're outside of a low-latitude desert or area of active vulcanism, you're stuck with using wind or wave, one of which simply cannot cope with the power demands of a first world country and the other of which probably couldn't either even if anybody could get it to work. Which they can't.

        Outside of some sort of solar-powered-hunter-gatherer society (which would require depopulation on an impressively genocidal scale) this sort of system isn't ever going to work. When the oil runs out, people will be screaming for nuclear to heat their houses, power their transport networks, make their TV go. The nuclear NIMBYs will be the first up against the wall when that day comes, and I for one will not be sad if a load of ignorant 'wind will save the world' types are lined up with them.

      8. veti Silver badge

        Step 3 missing

        Unfortunately, developing new tech is not like studying to be a doctor. Specifically, you *don't* get to charge exorbitant rents for the rest of your life to anyone else in the world who wants/needs to use what you've developed.

        How many times have we seen it? Country A develops technology, Country B continues on its merry way until the mistakes have been discovered and the wrinkles smoothed out, then Country B grabs whatever bits of the technology look best, makes its own improvements, and gains all the benefits for a fraction of the cost. America did it with telephones, Japan did it with cars, Korea with electronics.

        It's not necessarily a bad thing. All those examples have made us all better off. But it means that the assumption that there is some kind of positive benefit in the long term needs to be much more closely examined.

  6. Yamal Dodgy Data

    Sustainable unemployment and hyper-inflation

    Subsidies never create SUSTAINABLE jobs - whether these be green or otherwise.

    Likewise taxes usually destroy jobs. So, why have green taxes?

    1. PyLETS

      taxes not always bad

      Taxes create jobs in teaching which are sustainable within a population willing to continue voting for taxes needed to pay for state-funded education and the high-value, high-skill jobs which result from schooling compared to illiteracy. So not all taxes destroy jobs QED. A few societies prefer illiteracy to taxes for this purpose - I suggest you go visit such a place to see what it's like living there, but I don't think you'll want to stay long.

      As you say, subsidies are not sustainable, to the extent an electorate is very likely to vote their discontinuation. Therefore it follows that green taxes which correct subsidies paid by the rest of society to polluters of the entire environment correct this imbalance within the economy caused by the free ride given to polluters at everyone else's expense. There isn't a better mechanism than green taxes to correct this subsidy in connection with C02 pollution, because we all generate this in different amounts and every act of pollution affects everyone else. As another commenter has pointed out, better to turn the tap off at source than plug a billion leaks elsewhere, so taxing large scale production and supply of fossil fuels does the job more efficiently than any other approach to ending this subsidy.

    2. Craigness


      The oil and gas industry is not sustainable, nor is the current system of agriculture. Green taxes can force industries to move toward a sustainable model which the free market does not impose, and by definition this will lead to greater prosperity in the long term. Improvements in production methods destroy jobs, but that doesn't mean they're a bad thing. If green taxes destroy jobs in industries which destroy the environment, and therefore future people's ability to feed themselves, then it's not a bad thing. Unless you feel happy about using the legacy bequeathed you by past generations in order to steal from future generations, that is.

      1. Andrew Orlowski (Written by Reg staff)

        Re: taxes not always bad

        "There isn't a better mechanism than green taxes to correct this subsidy... taxing large scale production and supply of fossil fuels does the job more efficiently than any other approach to ending this subsidy."

        [citation needed]

  7. Anonymous Coward


    2 or 3% of GDP is a small price to pay to if it means we leave a cleaner/habitable enviroment for our descendents. No......

    1. Sam Liddicott

      Big IF

      You are right, but most people don't notice the big IF in what you said.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Bigger Ifs

        How much money gets wasted on gambling whether the latest economic voodoo has any basis in reality?

        Name one economic theory that has consensus among the experts, or an empirical test to confirm or deny its validity.

        I see a lot of incomplete data sets (if you can even call them sets) and a lot of hand-waving.

  8. Hermes Conran

    Green energy ignored by the rest of the world...

    Do you mean like China with the worlds largest PV manufacturing capacity or like Germany with the largest installed PV base, or Demark who generate up to 20% of peak electricity use with wind, or California or Texas with huge wind investments or Italian geothermal or Brazilian biomass...

    1. Craigness

      The others

      I think they mean climate change deniers and the people who think oil is abiogenic.

    2. ChilliKwok

      How's that 'green energy' working out for you?

      > China with the worlds largest PV manufacturing capacity

      They have the world's largest manufacturing capacity of everything - not just PV. It's because they have millions of degree-qualified young people willing to work for a pittance. And they're happy to supply us with whatever useless junk we want - including solar panels.

      > Germany with the largest installed PV base

      Despite this, their PV only meets 2% of their demand and has increased their cost / KWHr to 60% above UK prices. They're currently slashing solar subsidies and building 26 coal fired plants to meet demand.

      > Demark who generate up to 20% of peak electricity use with wind

      They have the most expensive electricity in Europe - over 2x UK prices. Due to the erratic uncontrollable nature of wind farms they have to export 80% of their output to Norway for hydro storage then buy it back at a premium. And despite this - they haven't closed a single conventional power station - on the contrary they need more to backup the intermittent wind output.

      Brazilian Biomass? Currently contributing to massive forest clearance and surging food prices as subsidized fuel crops replace essential food crops.

      This is what you get when you put know-nothing eco-alarmists and climate profiteers in charge of energy policy.

    3. Mark 65 Silver badge

      @Hermes Conran

      You mean the same China that's exporting those PV panels (which are made at a huge energy cost) to Western feelgood types whilst at the same time burning huge amounts of coal for power? That China? Or how about the Brazilian biomass, green energy coming from a country that's destroying the rainforest at an alarming rate. Would those be the same Danes that pay the highest residual electricity prices in the EU?

      1. Jolyon

        Not doubting anyone's figures

        But the argument seemed to switch in an instant from 'wind power does not work' to 'the Danes make wind power work for them but their electricity is expensive' which is not quite the same thing.

        Is wind power buffered by hydro a workable option? Is it a workable option here given UK geography?

        How much would energy prices have to rise to make it economically viable?

        1. Steve Todd

          @Jolyon - you seem to have an odd definition of "make it work"

          A system that costs twice as much while not reducing the amount of conventional plant is "making it work"?

          The biggest pumped storage system in the world is in the USA, and with a capacity of 2772 MW it can replace the output of one nuclear plant for about 2-3 hours. Nowhere near enough capacity to fill in for lulls in the wind.

          1. Jolyon


            For the reply, Steve.

            I assumed that the Danes have also increased demand so if they have managed to supply that with wind power rather than any other sort then wind for them is working (maybe not well or efficiently but to some extent).

            I'm just trying to get a handle on this issue which is nigh on impossible with opinions polarised as they are.

            Now, let me ask the Reg readers if I should buy an Apple laptop . . .

  9. Anonymous Coward

    Green energy...pfft

    Until, the US, India and China do something meaningful to reduce their CO2 emissions, then anything the UK does is utterly meaningless. If the UK ceased to exist today, then the change in emissions would hardly be noticeable. In my view the only green energy worth pursuing is a River Seven tidal power station and thorium nuclear reactors. The trouble with a lot of these green hippies is that they will not be content until we are living in some mythical golden times akin to middle ages peasants, which actually never existed. However the real problem is never addressed, which is over population. How well do hippies burn?

    1. Craigness


      Your mischaracterisation of the environmentalists' pint of view shows that you don't read much from them. Incidentally, China is the leading country in thorium energy. Until the "Green energy...pfft" people do something meaningful to get a clue we'll have to read views like yours. How well do you decompose into methane and compost?

    2. Anonymous Coward

      Re: Green energy...pfft

      "In my view the only green energy worth pursuing is a River Seven tidal power station..."

      Severn Estuary. At least learn what it is called and how to spell it. The jury is out on whether such megaprojects really produce the claimed benefits, but it's certainly one way to blow a ton of money in the direction of some very big companies.

      "...and thorium nuclear reactors."

      Is that only worth it because that's what everyone else is saying?

      "The trouble with a lot of these green hippies is that they will not be content until we are living in some mythical golden times akin to middle ages peasants"

      Yeah, yeah: the author of the article already had to bring North Korea into it because there's nothing like comparing even moderate "greens" with totalitarian regimes, and likening green policy to the consequences of half a century's worth of mass persecution, government-induced famine and the complete subservience of a nation to its military elite. Either that, or a strawman was needed to make the economic argument work. Either way, we're looking at juvenile point-scoring - hardly surprising given the title of the piece, really.

      (Of course, North Korea also happens to be investing in nuclear power, when they can get their hands on the right gear, some of the technology concerned actually originating from Britain.)

    3. Anonymous Coward


      "If the UK ceased to exist today, then the change in emissions would hardly be noticeable."

      Not at all my friend, a lot of the emissions from people 'concerned' about Global warming would go.

      Oh, you meant gas emissions rather than holier than thou waffle? Gotcha, I withdraw my correction!

    4. Anonymous Coward


      If everyone sits around saying "No, after you" and "No, really, after you" then we will all choke to death in a politeness contest. I don't agree with the UK's policy (wind is a waste of money, nuclear would be better) but it is at least something. I'd also like to see parliament lead by example (pfft, like that'll happen).

      Just because the USA is an arse when it comes to the environment (and social welfare, and foreign policy) doesn't mean that we have to be.

  10. James 51

    Missing the point

    Did the report consider consumer driven micro-generation? I don't see the government allowing me to have a mini-nuclear reactor buried under my house any time soon but I can buy a ground source heat pump.

    1. Fuzz

      Ground source heat pump

      A heat pump doesn't generate electricity, it consumes electricity.

      1. A J Stiles

        Yes but

        A heat pump moves heat from one place to another. Ideally, it moves rather more joules of heat than the amount of electricity fed to it and discharges the inevitable waste heat at the hot end. By heating your home with heat from the ground or air outside, as opposed to heat produced by gas or electricity, there is a net reduction in energy consumption.

        This does mean, of course, that "outside" gets colder.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Micro generation...

      ...tends to be inefficient. And what is the impact of hordes of people sucking the heat out of the ground? Use less and have less people on the planet - simple answers.

  11. Jon Press

    Ah, the entirely impartial Global Warming Policy Foundation

    I think the warning bells start ringing immediately you see their front page which refers to CERN with such respect for its scientific credibility: "its white-coated priesthood commands immense deference from the faithful". It's a bit like reading Lewis Page on nuclear power.

    We're stuck with perpetually increasing prices for conventional energy too - as well as the political and security problems that come from precarious and/or potentially hostile sources of supply. A significant part of our defence expenditure is tied up in the Middle East and BP hasn't exactly been getting the commercial benefit it expected from its Russian operations, costs which really ought to be factored into the true economics of fossil fuels.

    That's not to say that wind power and solar pv aren't distractions: without massive instantaneous overprovision or some sort of storage capability they just don't cut it as engineering solutions even before the cost is considered. Continued dependence on imported oil and gas don't cut it as eonomic or political solutions either, though.

    Perhaps unfortunately, given the rate at which existing generating capacity is reaching the end of its life, there is no UK "headlong rush" into anything. Although policy is currently pro-renewable, wind farms are being fought over one by one in planning enquiries and the subsidies on solar farms have already been cut back: the development of "renewable energy" is hardly racing ahead despite the misplaced enthusiasm of its supporters and the exaggerated howls of its detractors.

    There are a number of potentially more effective renewable schemes (tidal barrages or hydro - there's plenty of rain in the Lake District) but they're essentially barred on environmental grounds. And that's in the end why we are doomed to expensive power - we can't compete with countries that are prepared to relocate over a million residents to make way for a dam.

  12. Michael 31
    Thumb Down

    The GWPF a pernicious ultra-right wing group in favour, amongst other things, of shale oil extraction throughout the UK - a technology which demonstrably pollutes water supplies and causes earthquakes.

    The reason for their bizarre stance is that they (like Andrew Orlowski) point blank refuse to countenance the idea the massive amounts of CO2 we put into atmosphere could have any negative effect. No one knows for sure what these consequences will be, but there is very good basic science and many experimental findings which support the idea that this CO2 emission will result in great harm in the future over a time span of decades to centuries, a period of time humans have never previously planned over. The GWPF are not climate change skeptics - that insults real skeptics. They are flat-earth climate change possibility deniers.

    At the moment renewable energy generation costs more than fossil fuel generation and all the things AO reported sound very reasonable. Except that we would be paying these people unemployment benefit if they were not producing green electricity so this saving should be factored in. But in summary: renewable electricity is much harder to generate so it costs more.

    What the GWPF and AO fail to realise is that the economics by which they set so much store simply does not value the planet on which we live. To the best of our understanding, the low price allocated to carbon fuels is driving choices which are most likely bad for the planet. For example the CO2 we emit now will warm the planet for hundreds of years - the CO2 emitted in 1900 is still there warming us now. This is something about which they play coy - they deny and obfuscate.

    And aside from the possible long term damage, the cheap fuel carbon-culture that the GWPF supports is damaging the planet now in many way. The GWPF object to green energy because the pylons required would affect the view of isolated regions of the UK. Perhaps that is where they have their second homes? Why don't they object to the way oil companies have destroyed areas of the Niger delta or devastated the Gulf of Mexico for a year, or destroyed vast areas of Alberta. All this devastation in the search for cheap fuel.

    The GWPF should be renamed the Cheap Energy Foundation because that is what they support: no matter what the cost.

  13. johnwerneken

    DUH all that "green" stuff is really chit and colored like it too

    The human race is up to its arse in energy and in resources, and needs to keep developing same so that more humans can enjoy the life most REG readers can take for granted. Of course experimenting with what now and for the forseable future is our only Planet is problematic, but most of such as are complained about, if one examines the complaints, most of the complaints are without foundation and most of the complainants are just more interested parties with a very selfish interest as motivation, albeit an emotional self interest in most cases not a financial one.

    The more legitimate complaints are still hard to take seriously or to address even if one agreed, since the complainants- when it comes to so-called "Green" issues - NEVER spend much effort presenting cost and benefit tradeoffs of alternatives spannining all the options including "DO MORE OF IT", "STAY THE COURSE", "U-TURN", and true options.

    I personally thing the Greenies are my enemy in WWIV, just like the Imperialists in WWI, the Fascists in WWII, and the Communists in WWIII - all of the first three wars being won by me and people like me by the way, so Greenies beware! I bite as well as flame.

  14. christtalmighty

    Why compare things when you can pull figures out of your sponsor's marketing material

    Direct comparison of renewable energy capital costs (£120bn) and those of a gas power stations construction (£13bn). Seems to have forgotten about the cost of gas for generation.

    1. John X Public
      Thumb Up

      And you can ignore evidence that wind power in fact reduces power costs

      Isn't actual data annoying:

  15. Anonymous Coward

    "there is no UK "headlong rush" into anything. "

    The UK post-privatisation "dash for gas" was pretty much a headlong rush towards putting the lights out though, and it was pointed out (but largely ignored) at the time.

    A non-renewable non-sustainable resource with far far better uses than being burnt in gas turbine engines driving alternators was literally turned to hot air, with a bit of electricity for good luck. Oh, and a LOT of short term profits for the players in the CCGT game.

    All hail The Markets, for The Markets can never be wrong, The Markets always have the people's best medium term interests in mind, The Markets always consider the most environmentally sound use of resources as their prime commandment.

  16. Andrew Jones 2

    this is a title

    The whole green thing is a nonsense anyway - oooo let's ban incandescent lightbulbs so people are forced to go with toxic CFL's that must be disposed of with a proper cleanup program rather than just throwing them in the bin when they are done. Oh wait - that's not really publicised is it?

    The fact is though - that people using CFL's are not really saving the environment because the heat output from your normal 100w bulb is lost when replaced with a CFL and therefore people have to spend slightly more on the cost of heating a property.

    While we are on it - insulating attics is another big one in this country too - oooo save the environment insulate your attic..... yes well after the winter that we've had - this winter we are sticking 20w light bulbs into the attic and leaving them on all winter - slight rise in electricity cost is outweighed by having to replace huge amounts of gutter thanks to snow that doesn't melt when it lands on the roof, freezes and brings down slates and gutter and weatherboard and causes thousands of pounds of damage when it finally starts to thaw!!

    1. Goat Jam

      Heat is lost

      therefore people have to spend slightly more on the cost of heating a property?

      Are you for real?

      What about hot climates? By your logic 100W bulbs will heat your house requiring you to run your AC more.

      While what you say is theoretically correct it is in practice nonsense. Any differences in house temperatures would be imperceptible and would cancel out over the year due to seasonal changes.

      Don't get me wrong I am not an eco-alarmist at all, but using this as an argument is patently absurd and does nothing to counter the idiocy coming from the other side of the fence.

  17. ChilliKwok
    Thumb Up

    Green Jobs Myth

    Bravo to Professor Hughes for his clear and definitive demolition of the idiotic 'green jobs' myth.

    Reading some of the economically illiterate comments posted above shows just how much work there is to do in rescuing our future freedom and prosperity from the clutches of irrational eco-alarmists. These people are already doing huge damage to our economy and our environment with their daft medieval energy policies.

  18. Will Godfrey Silver badge

    Bow Locks

    The UK economy has already been crippled by decades of R&D underfunding, and the fact we manufacture virtually nothing.

    I wonder where the good professor gets his funding for his 'independent' studies.

    One totally meaningless graph. No real data.

  19. John Rose

    Nuclear Energy

    In the article there is no comparison of costs between different method of energy generation. For instance, nuclear energy production is currently much more expensive than energy generation from gas or hydro. And that's without taking into account the as yet unknown costs of fissile material disposal. I suggest therefore that the whole of the article is completely flawed.

  20. James Woods


    No real big surprise here. In my state vehicle emissions are hit and miss across the area. You can drive 30-60 minutes and your vehicle won't need them which can cost you alot ($300-500 if it's an older vehicle).

    They don't cover large commercial vehicles because industry won't comply with the regulations and/or would be forced out of business.

    They only target the little guy and his passenger vehicle because they know who the masses (sheep) are.

    So im glad the small passenger vehicles on the road have to comply with strict emission standards (or hell any at all) while the large commercial vehicles need to comply with well nothing.

  21. Naughtyhorse

    UK can gain a comparative advantage in the manufacture of renewable energy equipment

    well that's not going to happen in any case.

    look where all our green kit is manufactured....

    it aint here.

    I hate to sound pro market, but govt subsidies are skewing the market. wind and PV only work because of subsidy, which costs. and just down the road we come to learn that wind and PV generate pretty much fuck all, plue our transmission/distribution grids are not designed to have little bits of power squirted in here and there - effectively running a top down (kinda-almost) system in 2 directions.

    so the upgrades to sub station protection schemes end up costing us, on top of the subsidy.

    and in the end we _will_ have to build a ton of nuclear to keep the lights on. which will _really_ cost.


  22. Cucumber C Face

    Re: The Bank of England has a duty to keep inflation to 2 per cent a year

    In case no one has noticed, inflation indices are running at around 5%, interest rates on savings are being held down and we've printed GBP 200 BN plus in the past two years.

    The new policy is to inflate away government debts (by/while) devaluing pensions and savings.

    One might expect some debate about the wisdom of this policy - but it seems no politician is owning up to this being what is happening. There is cross party consensus to conceal this and the media by and large support the conspiracy of silence.

    The Bank Of England is patently not independent of the Government of the day - it held interest rates artificially low in the noughties so as to support Gordon Brown's profligate spending (e.g. the illusion of 'cheap' PFI schemes), fuel the housing price bubble and consequent 'feel good' factor. They had the responsibility to (and could have) headed off the banking crisis by earlier intervention.

    If we're lucky (and the UK doesn't beome the next Argentina, Zimbabwe or Weimar Republic) we shall be paying for that political short termism for the next twenty years.

  23. This post has been deleted by its author

  24. Anonymous Coward

    Green can't possibly be green

    On the face of it, planting trees to burn tree is green. Its sucks up CO2 and then releases the same amount as it is destroyed / burnt. Carbon neutral. However look at the emissions to make this happen...

    The people driving to forests, in big 4x4s in low gears to plant the trees, then you have the people look after the trees and eventually its time to chop them down, with chuffing great machines that cut and clean and dump into artic lorries that you see driving up and down the motorways.

    It would be extremely interesting to see how much CO2 is produced in order to plant, grow, cut and transport that tree.

    1. A J Stiles


      As long as it's less than the amount of potential energy stored in chemical bonds in the tree, the energy cost of planting, harvesting and transporting a tree could be obtained from renewable sources.

      On the other hand, if it costs more energy to plant, harvest and transport a tree than you eventually obtain from it, then you simply stop growing trees and use the fuel saved by not doing forestry management instead of trees.

    2. Some Beggar

      @AC 08.27

      "It would be extremely interesting ..."

      But apparently not interesting enough for you to type something into Google to find the answer. A few lazy clicks informs me that the Forestry Commission has run a whole pile of studies on large- and small-scale fuel production from woodland. The bottom line is that if you have forested/forestable land then using it for fuel is economically (and therefore eco-economically) sound.

      What you've done is make a handful of entirely uneducated guesses and used them to leap to an entirely bogus conclusion. Top work there, Professor Science.

  25. Bruce Ordway

    over population

    > over population

    Address overpopulation?

    Maybe it is ignored because it can't be managed.

    A lot of people want kids.

    Not me, they seem like a nuisance for a lot of other reasons unrelated to "green".

    Anyway, I never had any so don't blame me.

  26. paulc


    The Chinese continue to wreck their own environment in order to ruin western economies... There was a report only this week whre vilages in rural areas of China are suffering from monrtous subsidence because the Chinese can't be bothered to back fill the seams of coal they're mining because it would double the cost of the coal...

    And this coal theyre' mining is being used to fire blast furnaces and coal fired power stations which have NO emissions controls in place... and the Greenies have had to add yet another fudge factor into their AGW models to account for cooling caused by the rampant sulphur dioxide emissions and other pollutants from China!!!

  27. localzuk
    Thumb Down

    So many flaws

    So, what about when 'conventional fuels' hit the point where they are no longer affordable due to lack of availability? Suddenly, the UK will have a massive problem. Sure renewables are expensive now, but in 20 years time when oil is so expensive as to be unaffordable by the masses? Coal is obviously a bit more abundant, but it would just be delaying the inevitable.

    Also, what about the damaging affects of global warming on the economy. Increased prevalence of extreme weather conditions and climate are predicted, and the last decade of increased events like these seem to indicate something is going on (yes, I realise this is very short term in terms of a sample size, but an indicator is an indicator).

    Saying the GDP will shrink by 2-3% because of increased renewable use is kind of pointless unless shown in comparison with other projections and predictions.

    1. Perpetual Cyclist

      Forget 20 years...

      Forget 20 years time. When UK oil production and exports peaked in 2000 we were selling it at $10 a barrel. UK oil and gas production has declined steadily at 5-7% a year since, and we now import oil at $110 a barrel. Global oil production has peaked. We import half the gas we use. We (along with the US and most of the OECD ) are being systematically outbid for the remaining reserves of oil, gas and coal by Chindia who continue to expand consumption at 5-10% a year. We are as a nation also deep in debt to these nations, and we need (fossil) energy to grow our economy out of recession again.

      It isn't going to happen. Without energy we are back in the middle ages. It's renewable energy or fuedalism. Nuclear could be expanded, but we will struggle to support working reactors as we go through the transition to our inevitable third world status. If Japan can suffer a triple meltdown/dirty bomb style explosions, then so can we.

  28. David Hicks

    What about investing in green power tech

    And then selling it to other countries, that could turn a nice profit, no? Or is that not part of the study?

    As others have pointed out, this study seems deliberately naive.

    1. hahnchen
      Thumb Up

      This is exactly what we should be doing

      Solyndra failed because it tried to build a manufacturing company in the US as opposed to China. It costs less for a panel to be shipped from China than it does for it to be trucked across the States.

      Subsidies should not go to low margin doomed to fail factories - but ploughed into research.

      We need solar cells that can do better than 15%, we need high energy density batteries that charge in minutes - not hours.

      We're not going to get that if we're ploughing all our non-existent money to promote people propping up windmills everywhere.

  29. david 12 Silver badge

    An otherwise reasonable report...

    Slightly marred by the ommision of the detail that alternative energy sources are still dropping in price dramatically, and are likely to be cost-effective for some niches.

    For example, in Hawaii -- where all convential energy is imported, and peak load in Western Australia, where solar irradiation is high, and the peak (air-conditioning) load happens in the early afternoon.

    Note that in WA, PV is cost competitive with Natural Gas at present only because NG is priced at export parity and PV attracts effective subsidies, but PV dropped in price 40% last year and NG prices are not expected to fall.

    PS: Natural Gas and Oil are not expected to 'run out' at any time. They just become more expensive. And the world seems to be coping with that fairly well. Nobody would be worrying about Global Warming if NG and Oil were set to run out.

    1. PyLETS
      Thumb Down

      @david 12

      "Nobody would be worrying about Global Warming if NG and Oil were set to run out."

      Per unit of energy, burning coal releases more C02 than oil which releases more C02 than natural gas. Given known global coal reserves of 118 years, oil at 46 years and NG at 59 years (at current production rates see substitution of coal for oil and NG as these lighter hydrocarbons become more scarce and relatively expensive, without renewables to fill the gap this would exacerbate C02 levels and GW. So it's possible to have both problems, resulting in dirtier gas and oil from coal because many systems will continue to require lighter fuels, and coal can be (very dirtily) converted into gas (as with the old style gas works) and into oil, as done in WW2 Germany and Apartheid regime sanctioned South Africa.

  30. Christian Berger

    Keep in mind that

    There have been studies trying to find a correlation between economic predictions of growth and the actual growth. They haven't been able to find any significant correlation.

    So I guess we should take this "expert" just as serious as all "experts" in that field and just ignore it. Economy is no science, it's just guesswork.

  31. Zog The Undeniable

    The report is probably right, but...

    what if the Russians turn off the gas?

    what if the Chinese outbid us for it?

    what if the price of uranium goes up 10x with everyone wanting it (and we don't have an empire to control the supply any more)?

    Personally I'd build the green stuff slowly but also get ready to reopen the coal mines. We have hundreds of years of that available.

    1. JimC

      > what if the chinese outbid us

      There's a bigger question than that... Why should the rest of the world sell food to us rather than the Chinese?

  32. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Top 10 Manufacturer?

    Of what? Bullshit? Spin? The only growth indiustry is Submit or Die 'policing'

  33. Anonymous Coward

    So green costs too mcuh...

    ...but suicide by a thousand cuts is fine and dandy.

    Just how will the economy thrive when the human population is reduced to scratching a living from the near-barren dirt? Short-sighted economics trumps long-term goals once again.

    But hey, so long as you get your 5-10% return on your investment, why should you care about anyone else or the next generations? You don't know your great-grandchildren, so why should you be concerned about them suffering rising sea levels, increased UV, disease or anything else that rampant pollution may cause? You're fine and that's all you care about.

    1. Chris Miller

      How lucky we are

      These clowns weren't around 200 years ago: "hey man, I know this industrial revolution thingy looks really cool, but is it sustainable - have you thought of the effects on our grandchildren?"

      And today we'd all* be working from dawn to dusk in the fields trying to get a damp harvest in, and living on a turnip-based diet. But at least it would be 'sustainable'.

      * nearly all, unless you were lucky enough to be born a wealthy landowner.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        @Chris Miller

        Yeah, because the smog, Thames water, worker-poisoning and goodness knows what else were all soooooo much better.

        I am not anti-progress, I am anti-stupid.

        1. Chris Miller

          So you're anti-yourself?

          No smog in UK since 1950s, Thames now running with salmon and otters, very few workers now poisoned. Perfection remains elusive, but life is far, far better for almost everyone living in a modern industrialised society than it was (is) for almost everyone who doesn't.

          If you like agrarian economies so much, why not try living in one? There are plenty of examples in Africa.

  34. bertino

    Trust an economist?

    All the economist offered was speculation and what he thinks might happen. Has he done some real sums to prove his hypothesis, or is it all just words? Has he created a full mathematical model of the global financial system to show what happens when money is invested now in green tech? And the feedback effect of the jobs created/destroyed by this, and the effect of green energy on energy prices and how this feeds back into the global economy?

    I am not biased with regards global warming one way or the other, as predicting global temperature over time has the same problems as the global financial system.

    It is hard enough to get an electronic circuit with feedback working well, with only a few components/variables, never mind a system with thousands of variables.

  35. Some Beggar

    \begin{pedantic dullard}

    This isn't a study, it is an opinion piece. This should be obvious from the fact that (a) it is a GWPF report rather than a peer-reviewed paper, and (b) its contents are almost entirely rhetorical.

    The essential argument about whether labour is a cost or a benefit is sound, but it is hardly revolutionary stuff. I should imagine Prof Hughes includes it in the first term of undergrad classes. And I would hope he includes historical criticism of it as well. It applies equally to any and every industry of whatever hue and irrespective of whatever government support it might receive. Applying it as a criticism of a specific sector is bogus - any effort to create jobs anywhere by anybody is open to this critique.

  36. James Micallef Silver badge

    Sad but expected

    That most of the comments I've seen get hanged up on the global warming issue. Whether we are causing global warming or not is completely irrelevant to long-term energy requirements. Hydrocarbons WILL run out, we're already moving en masse to much more difficult sources to exploit (such as tar sands and hydro fracking), and it does not substantively matter whether hydrocarbons will last for 50 years or 200, because in the end they WILL run out.

    Long-term we need something like controlled fusion, in the meantime renewable backed up by safe modern nuclear baseload need to be ramped up to meet demand and hydrocarbon use scaled down. Energy prices can either go up gradually STARTING NOW while increasing renewable capacity, or else we can keep burning cheap hydrocarbons till they run out, and then have energy prices multiply thousandfold at the point we realise that the oil has run out and sorry, there's not enough electricity to go around.

    Energy SHOULD cost more, because that way maybe we can finally start treating it as a precious and finite resource instead of expecting it to be cheap and infinite, and wasting so much of it.

  37. TheOtherHobbbes
    Thumb Down

    Dear God

    This is the biggest pile of utter pants I've ever read on the Reg.

    Really, you people should stay completely out of economics. You clearly don't have any deeper understand of how an economy works than 'Stands to reason, dunnit guv?"

    I suppose The Reg *is* a red top. But that's no excuse for publishing nonsense just because it happens to fit the party line.

    And as for 'the rest of the world isn't going green' - you haven't actually looked at what's happening in China, Europe, and the US *at all*, have you?

    Tell you what - how about you give some equal space to people who really do know something about the facts, instead of posting things by your regular team who clearly don't?

    Or would that be too obviously fair and balanced for you?

  38. A J Stiles

    Non-renewable energy is also subsidised

    The thing about *all* non-renewable energy generation is that, since the non-renewable fuels are pretty much by definition not being replaced as fast as they are being consumed, this is tantamount to an invisible subsidy. Oil, gas, coal and even uranium *will* run out one day; after which, renewable energy is all there is ever going to be.

    Now, we basically have two choices as to what to do about that situation. Either we wait for it to happen and suddenly transition the whole of society to a pre-Industrial Revolution lifestyle (no motor vehicles, no Internet, no electricity, no indoor plumbing, no modern medicine, no 50th birthdays); or we get started with preparing *now*, so that we don't have to do all that.

    A *lot* of non-renewable energy will have to be expended, on a one-time basis, to kick-start a renewables-based infrastructure. If we can get onto 100% renewables *before* the non-renewables run out altogether, then we won. At any rate, the longer we leave it, the less of our 21st century lifestyle we are going to be able to keep.

    The USA might well be content to sit back and do nothing. They also believe the Earth to be 6000 years old, and that all living things were created in their present form by a magic sky fairy.

  39. mhenriday

    But my dear OtherHobbbes,

    if the Reg were to give equal space to people who really do possess knowledge in the field of climatology, the GWPF might then want to reconsider whether the journal and Mr Orlowski were appropriate channels for placing what you so aptly describe as «pants» before the public. And *that* might just have economic consequences....


  40. rossglory
    Thumb Down

    turkey news

    so the global warming policy foundation has found that combating climate change is too expensive. what an exclusive, on a par with the latest turkey news - turkeys don't like xmas.

    this from the foreword sums up this gibberish "The measures which reflect it have largely focused on ‘mitigation’ – that is, on curbing emissions of (so-called) ‘greenhouse gases". 'so-called'?? that science goes back over a hundred years.

    if you're gullible enough to lap up this biased nonsense more fool you.....meanwhile the real world will move on and leave you behind

  41. rossglory

    real energy news

    1.3bn gbp of taxpayers hard earned lost as sellafield mox plant closes. should have invested the money in windfarms instead.

  42. Albert Stienstra

    It is very sad

    It is very sad, the way the commenters have moved to climatology instead of keeping focus on the economics of renewable energy, which is windfarms for the UK. The point made in the report of Gordon Hughes is that the windfarms bring the UK nothing, apart from cost. This is nothing new, a similar conclusion was drawn on renewable energies in Germany (June 2010, Rheinisch-Westfälisches Institut für Wirtschaftsforschung).

    The windfarms are not going to improve significantly, it is a technology that has been around for more than 30 years. The UK has no key assets in this technology area. The only thing the UK will learn from these windfarms is the installation and the running of them around the British coast, which is not something that can be exported. The lifecycle of a windfarm is no more than 20 years, by that time they will have to be replaced, by more expensive turbines of course. During their time of life they will always have been more expensive per kWh generated than other forms of energy (apart from PV and biomass perhaps). The only thing the turbines will have generated is the subsidy, needed to operate them. All cost, no benefit. But perhaps there is nothing better left to invest in in the UK. Again, very sad.

  43. Anonymous Coward

    And when the non-renewables are out

    Apart from the economics which I didn't pull into enough to comment: non-renewables will be out of availability at some time (and based on current consumption development thats not too far away) - what do you propose to do then if we are not starting to invest into renewables before? Avoid consuming energy any more? In a bit more "rational way": whats the cost that the economy has to bear then; how is that factored into the analysis?

    1. Albert Stienstra

      Yes, tell us when the non-renewables will be out

      You say it will not be far away, so you must know....

  44. calumg

    Typical short-termism

    This is a typical example of why economists shouldn't be running the country. Evidently they can only deal with short term financial impact.

    The long term impact of ignoring climate change is harder to quantify, so therefore it's totally ignored in the article.

    To the sceptics on this thread: if the probability of climate change being real is (say) 50%, but the impact is (say) $100Tn, then you can just multiply the impact by the probability to get $50Tn.

    What next, we'll be hearing that the fishing industry will be economically crippled by lowering fishing quotas? Same short-termism.

    Economics promotes selfishness because there is no incentive for the individual [country] to act selflessly and work for the common good. Consequence: decimated fish stocks; potential climate catastrophe.

    P.S. crippling the economy is a GREAT way to reduce CO2 emissions :-P

    1. mhenriday

      Not to worry, calumg !

      Economists are *not* running the country - they are rather hired by those who are to be their mouthpieces. If labour is a cost that must continually be pressed to a minimum - save, of course, for the labour of such persons as corporate CEOs, hedge-fund managers, and economy professors - chattel slavery would seem to be the obvious solution, the only question being who is going to be the slave and who the slaveholder....


  45. Albert Stienstra

    Britain's wind farms will have no effect on climate change

    Even if the worst case scenarios of the IPCC are taken into account, a complete change-over of the UK to wind-generated energy will have no appreciable effect on climate change. So that cannot be the reason to bear the cost of the wind farms installation and operation.

    If there is a fear of becoming too dependent on oil/gas/coal suppy, a far better alternative is nuclear power.

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