From 2009 onwards President Obama spent lavishly on wind and solar farms – most of which went bust and now lie abandoned – while he also decided to close America’s $300m hydrogen energy research programme within days of arriving at the White House.
Today, in 2021, Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s £12 billion ‘Green Revolution’ is making exactly the same disastrous policy errors.
First and foremost, the energy sources patronised by Mr Johnson and being inflicted on the North of England are not ‘renewable’, nor ever have been – and they are certainly not ‘recyclable’ in any way. Once energy is gone, it’s gone.
After 20 years’ operation, both wind and solar energy types fail completely and require total replacement. The decommissioning costs of removing wind farms across the UK from 2030 onwards will run into billions. Solar cells cannot be recycled, nor the precious metals easily removed, and will inevitably end up in landfill.
Both wind and solar require plenty of fossil fuel energy to build them, and the total energy produced by the former will never cover the cost of installation or of its eventual decommissioning and removal.
The one Great Hope for the North of England is fracking, or shale gas – the one and only energy source that could most dramatically regenerate the economy and living standards of Lancashire and Yorkshire in as little as 10 years.
Yet the UK government halted all fracking back in 2019. A UK government regulation requires drilling to stop if it causes earth tremors above a 0.5 magnitude – the same level recorded when a truck passes your house.
In the US, fracking revived some of the poorest areas of the Midwest and beyond its huge energy contribution has greatly, and unexpectedly, re-launched America’s chemicals sector – always a big employer – by supplying fuel cheap enough to enable it to compete for the first time in decades with China and India. It could have the same impact in the UK.
When a fracking rig finally departs, all that is left is a field of grass and a small concrete plug – not the enormous concrete base plates and deep piles left behind by wind turbines which will cost millions to remove.
Mr Johnson, you remember, switched sides to support the £110 billion HS2 rail link; to impose barely used cycle lanes in London at a cost of £1.2bn; proposed an imaginary mega-airport in the Thames Estuary; spent £37m on planning the ill-fated Garden Bridge in Battersea, south London; and hatched an absurd plan to build a bridge between Scotland and Northern Ireland.
Perhaps his most absurd claim is that 250,000 new jobs will be created from his green strategy. For decades this figure has been touted by environmentalists, but the reality is likely to be less than 10,000. The number of traditional jobs lost is rarely mentioned but could be north of 600,000 over the next 10 years.
Worst of all, there is absolutely no market demand for wind and solar. As soon as subsidies end, they disappear. Some 80% of solar installers have gone bust since 2011, leaving those who need maintenance with roofs covered in failing, moss-covered cells.
The sole, practical element to the plans is the inclusion of hydrogen. The North West now has a cluster of world class hydrogen development companies, including Powerhouse Energy plc that is producing the gas from burning plastic waste.
However, the regional HyNet network believes hydrogen will be the key fuel for heavy, long-range vehicles such as trucks and coaches – but never for the heating hundreds of thousands of homes as forecast by Mr Johnson.
In America in 2020, where Obama’s former vice president has now taken over the top job, the much-heralded New Green Deal is planned in detail and ready to go. And the same energy sources that failed Obama so quickly and miserably last time will certainly soon fail again.
Marcus Gibson, an ex-FT tech correspondent and columnist, believes the UK’s SMEs are utterly essential to any future revival of the economy, especially outside the South East of England. His index of UK SMEs profiles thousands of the best companies.