Monday, June 04, 2007

Energy Security and Global Warming

Quite a few people, Peter Franklin for example, have argued that China will come onboard for CO2 reductions because they don't like being dependent upon foreign oil. The problem is that the Chinese have a solution in mind already for energy security. Lots of coal power stations. Hardly a result for our green friends.

In the US a similar trend is playing out. Attempts to push energy security up the agenda as a handy bonus that comes with addressing global warming are playing into the hands of "Big Coal". Bradford Plumer for the New Republic sets out how this is creating an opportunity for the ludicrously inefficient coal-to-liquid industry. Again, strategies for energy independence are very different to the kinds of strategies imagined to fight global warming.

In Britain the most obvious way of defending energy independence in the long term is probably a move towards nuclear power or some other technology. There isn't a crisis because in the meantime we will be fine so long as the North Sea doesn't wind down too quickly. At the moment we are only narrowly net importers of fossil fuels. The absolute worst policy for energy independence would be to place a windfall tax on profits from the North Sea. Exactly what Gordon Brown has done, the swine.

Those who want to argue for curbing emissions are disingenuous to fall back on illusory peripheral benefits like energy security. Doing so is a sign of intellectual, if not political, desperation.

5 comments:

Terror-Free Oil said...

Terror-Free Oil Initiative: First Step to Energy Independence

Terror-Free Oil said...

Terror-Free Oil Initiative: First Step to Energy Independence

Matthew Sinclair said...

I'd take down that ad-spam but it rather makes my point and I doubt many of my readers are shopping for petroleum in Omaha, NE.

Vino S said...

You rightly critique the idea that energy security necessarily means switching to cleaner forms of fuel. Britain, like China, has lots of domestic coal and so, in a sense, that is one of the most securest energy sources.

However, I am curious as to your attitude towards global warming. Are you one of those that thinks it isn't taking place and that we are just experiencing the normal range of temperature variations?

If you do see carbon emissions as a problem, though, what mechanisms would you tackle it with?

Matthew Sinclair said...

Vino,

I think the evidence is, on balance, that anthropogenic global warming does exist and will be important. Equally, that implies some significant transition costs although the final temperature will not necessarily be worse than the status quo.

I think the current push towards globalist socialism is a dismal response. I also see no evidence that global warming is likely to prove catastrophic; that is a remote possibility. Climate change is likely one more change we'll need to adapt to.

I'd favour technology support, through prizes is an interesting idea I've heard, and assistance to developing countries to adapt, e.g. to Bangladesh to assist in flood defence. Those measures are good ideas regardless of how important global warming turns out to be and don't involve screwing over the private sector.

To be honest, though, I doubt either will play the central role in our adapting to climate change. Most important will be ensuring the continued health of liberal market socieities. These are far better at adapting to changes in circumstance, including climate change. Better governance and a stronger economy are the factors most likely to save poor countries from the worst effects of global warming, the West will probably be fine.

If you want more stuff on climate change search this blog's archive. Also, I wrote a piece for ConHome setting out a response to climate change. It's a topic I've written a lot on.