As President of the Renewable Energy Association, described on its website as “The voice of the renewables industry in the UK”, it is obviously difficult for Tim Yeo to be objective. Nevertheless, I regret that he has not addressed any of the key points I made in my opening statement in this brief debate.
Instead, he bangs on about what China is doing to create “a much greener future”. So let us look at what China is really doing, rather than what he tells us it is doing.
According to the International Energy Agency (IEA), some 87 per cent of China’s energy output comes from fossil fuels, chiefly coal. The bulk of the rest comes from biomass, with renewables such as wind and solar accounting for less than a tenth of 1 per cent. Nor is this going to change significantly in the years ahead. China is investing heavily in fossil fuel resources around the world, in particular oil and gas, to fuel its future growth. As a result, the IEA reckons that by 2020 China’s carbon emissions will have quadrupled since 1990, the pathetic Kyoto agreement’s base date.
No wonder the Chinese government is adamant that China will not accept any binding emissions reduction target – which makes Tim Yeo’s policy worse than futile, as energy-intensive industry locates in China to cut fuel costs..
So what is China up to with its renewables industry? The answer of course is exporting, to countries in the West that are foolish enough to wish to saddle their industry and their people with inefficient, high-cost, energy. In 2010 China produced half the world’s solar panels, while having only 1 per cent installed in China. The story is little different with wind turbines. And the West (as well as China itself) is actually subsidising the country’s exports of renewables.German official development aid to the Chinese renewables industry already exceeds €100 million.
Tim closes his statement with a rhetorical flourish : “We can lead the world in the race to a green future, rather than be left looking back at the smoggy glory of our polluting past…I would much rather be a trend-setter than behind the times”. Alas, Trendy Tim shows that he understands neither the science, nor the economics, nor the history. Carbon dioxide is a colourless, odourless, non-polluting substance which, so far from causing smog, is essential for plant life. And wind-power, so far from being the future, is an ancient and unreliable source of energy which was sensibly abandoned over 150 years ago when technological development made possible the industrial revolution.
We cannot know what the fuel of the distant future will be. But we do know that the fuel of the foreseeable future will be gas, thanks to the technological breakthrough in the extraction of gas from shale, which exists in abundance throughout the world, including the UK. And we also know that it will not be wind power and the like, whatever the Renewable Energy Association likes to say.