Benny Peiser is the director of Net Zero Watch, a London-based group that focuses on the “implications of expensive and poorly considered climate change policies.” Peiser talks about Europe’s “unilateral energy disarmament,” the “cult” of climate-change activism, how Germany led the anti-hydrocarbon campaign in Europe, Britain’s shale gas potential, and why Europe needs to reverse its opposition to hydraulic fracturing and begin drilling for oil and gas immediately.
Robert Bryce 0:04
Hi, everyone. Welcome to the power hungry Podcast. I’m Robert Bryce. In this podcast we talk about energy, power, innovation and politics. And I’m pleased to welcome Benny Pizer. He is the director of net zero watch. He is based in London, Benny, welcome to the power hungry podcast.
Benny Peiser 0:21
Hi, thanks for having me.
Robert Bryce 0:23
So this is a special episode of the power hungry podcast and we’re going to talk about Ukraine. Benny, I did not warn you, but guests introduce themselves on this podcast and you have a long CV. You’re also affiliated with the Global Warming Policy Foundation. But imagine if you don’t mind that you’ve arrived somewhere you don’t know anyone you have about 60 seconds to introduce yourself, please do so.
Benny Peiser 0:47
Well, I’m I’m the director of the Global Warming Policy Foundation, which is a education charity on energy and climate policy, which was founded about 12 and a half years ago by Nigel Lawson, Lord Lawson, who was the treasurer under Margaret Thatcher, a very senior British politician the instrumental in privatizing after after the disaster of the 70s 80s privatizing large chunks of the British industry, and net zero watch is our campaigning arm. So we have two arms and I’m speaking on behalf of net zero watch. Because we’re not talking here about educational issues. We’re talking about political issues and energy and policy in particular.
Robert Bryce 1:44
Okay, good. And you’re you are based in London.
Benny Peiser 1:48
I’m basing our offices in London. I’m today talking to you from home, which is in Liverpool. But our office is in London and I tend to work most of the time at home and in London.
Robert Bryce 2:03
Gotcha. Liver Liverpudlian, what is the name for a Liverpool?
Benny Peiser 2:08
Either that or scouse Scouser? I’m an honorary, honorary Scouser. I’m originally from Germany. So I’ve been in Britain for 30 years. So I know the German situation, energy situation very well. I’ve seen it for long over the last 45 years. So I’ve and what we’re talking today, the crisis in Ukraine is a direct result of what originated in Germany in the 1980s.
Robert Bryce 2:37
Well, let’s talk about that, then. Because I mean, from what I see, I was just checking the spot prices for gas in in in Europe, the Dutch trading hub TTF, the front month price is what $52, the spot price here in the US at Henry Hub is less than five. So I mean, this it looks like Europe is interesting, a total energy crisis that there is no way out of in anything like the near term. And that’s my view, how do you see it? What, how, how bad is it? And how long will it last? It is
Benny Peiser 3:11
very bad. And there is no short term answer, although they are, you know, still ways of, you know, reducing the enormous dependency on Russian energy imports. And we’re not talking only gas, we’re talking everything, oil and coal. You’re currently spending 700 million euros every day. Just forget Russian gas. So Europe is funding Putin’s war to the tune of 700 billion a million euros every day. And this is just for gas. We’re not even talking here, the coal imports, which are also very substantial, and of course, oil as well. So we have a huge problem. And of course, the reason why Putin thinks he can afford to invade sovereign country like Ukraine is because he thinks Europe is unable to do anything about it. And it looks almost as if Europe is unable to do much about it. So the energy dependency on Russia is absolutely staggering. And of course, it it all started about 3040 years ago, with the campaign first against nuclear energy, which, you know, many European countries have phased out nuclear altogether have stopped building new nuclear power plants. So nuclear, the percentage of nuclear in the energy mix has shrunk significantly, then the next stage was to go after call, which obviously was the main stand for many countries that what drove the Industrial Revolution and so on. So the coal phase out was next. And the idea was to go for nuclear and for sorry for renewable energy. And that requires, of course, then a lot of gas. And so gas demand has gone through the roof. And in particular, the demand for Russian gas has gone through the roof. And so that is the background to the current situation. It’s all self inflicted.
Robert Bryce 5:38
Well, I think that that’s exactly right. I I’ve thought about it. I’ve written headlines about this, that this is Europe’s own energy suicide. Is that the right phrase? You say self inflicted? I mean, if you were going to if, if you’re writing a headline, are you just trying to make this as succinct as possible? What’s the right phrase for this? The
Benny Peiser 5:55
right phrase, in my opinion, is unilateral energy disarmament. If you remember, in the 60s and 70s, the left that called for unilateral nuclear disarmament, that, you know, Europe, and the US should give up nuclear weapons, and then we would have global peace. Right. So what we’ve done in Europe is unilaterally disarmed our energy. And we are naked, in front of a big pressure and aggressor and have essentially no weapons left in this energy war.
Robert Bryce 6:42
It’s, I mean, it’s staggering the situation, as you say, and that there’s been no effort to cut off the gas or to punish Putin in terms of the cutting off the flow of energy. Although the UK has now announced it won’t import any more Russian oil, gas or coal, is that correct?
Benny Peiser 7:02
That’s correct. But Britain, fortunately, is less dependent on Russian energy imports, then most other European countries, A, because Britain still has domestic oil and gas production in the North Sea. And B, the imports that we get are mainly from Norway and the Middle East. So the exposure to Russia is comparatively small, so we can afford to, you know, Ban Russian energy imports. And Germany essentially would have to more or less close down if they wouldn’t get the energy from Russia, because they are so different. And other countries are almost 100% dependent on on Russia, quite a lot of European nations are dependent, you know, sorry for that. I’m very sorry, no problem. And so yes, Britain can afford to do that. And in fact, Britain has now the opportunity and the duty to actually increase gas, gas supplies, not just for the British economy, but for the European economy, and help Europe out of this misery, but it would require to live the really foolish and ridiculous moratorium or ban on fracking, which the greens and the Russians managed to, you know, with their propaganda managed to enforce. So it the Green Movement essentially, is reaping now the rewards of 40 years of anti nuclear and anti fossil fuel propaganda in empowering Putin. And that is the direct result of 3040 years of green propaganda. And the Russians obviously have helped tremendously with our own western TV and radio stations who have helped the Greens enormously over the years.
Robert Bryce 9:16
Propaganda that’s I think that is the right word though, isn’t it?
Benny Peiser 9:21
Well, that’s what they’re using. That’s what they’re using. It’s not kind of rational arguments where you weigh up the pros and the cons where you say, well, there are some risks but there are many benefits and you look at it from both sides. They only say this is dangerous we can’t afford it’s killing the planet and so on. So they know exactly how to play this game and they have succeeded because essentially, the Russians are hand in hand with the Greens have succeeded to disarm Europe, when it comes to energy completely disarm it and we have to rearm ourselves we have to, you know bit like In the late 30s, when Britain was realizing how they were tricked into believing that, you know, they, they didn’t want another conflict. Well, if you want to survive in the neighborhood of a aggressive bully who is willing to use weapons indiscriminately, then you have, you know, if you want peace, you have to prepare for war.
Robert Bryce 10:37
Let’s talk about fracking just a moment we’re recording on March 4 Friday. I just saw your email note that just went out. And again, my guest is Benny Pizer. He’s the director of net zero watch you can find his work at Net Zero watch.com. Your email blast saying that the former head of EMI six Sir Richard Dearlove has called on Boris Johnson to I’m quoting here immediately left lift the moratorium on fracking. So that how important it is? Is it that that dear love is saying this that had EMI six? Is your your your your intelligence service similar to our CIA? How important is this? And second, how, how soon could the UK change course and get some drilling rigs actually running?
Benny Peiser 11:19
Well, first of all, it’s absolutely important that he has come out very strongly now, to make the case that everything has changed the invasion of Ukraine and the war against Ukraine is currently changing energy policy across Europe. And nothing will remain the same 30 years of energy policy have been bombed to smithereens have been destroyed within a few days. And, of course, politicians have to reconsider, reassess. In some parts of Europe, they are thinking of going back to coal. And whereas here in Britain, we’re not thinking going back to coal, although, if if the energy minister continues to oppose shale development, then sooner or later people will be calling for a return to coal, because something has to give something has to give. And so it’s very important that the former head of MSX has come out. He also said that the current policy are unrealistic and unachievable, these green netzero policies are very important. And so we really have to totally reassess the situation and have to make significant changes, realistic changes to energy policy, you asked, how long would it take? I’m told by Cuadrilla, the the company that, you know, started to frack in the north of England,
Robert Bryce 12:59
and Cuadrilla has leases and they’ve proved up I mean, some very significant reserve resources, shale resources, they haven’t done enough drilling don’t call them reserves yet, but the shale available the the shale gas potential in in in Britain is quite large,
Benny Peiser 13:14
is massive, absolutely massive. And so just to give you an idea, the shale basins in Britain are roughly 10 times deeper than the average shale basin in the US 10 times deeper. And so we don’t obviously know how much of it is commercial, commercially extractable, because we haven’t done enough test drilling. But the potential is significant, though the low estimate, the low estimate is that it’s the Bowland shale basin alone might be good enough for a 50 years of gas consumption at at current levels 50 years. But but this is a low estimate. It might be less, it might be more but the potential is absolutely enormous. And the fracking moratorium or ban is absolutely ridiculous and self defeating and the cost crisis and we haven’t even spoken about the cost crisis will sooner or later in in combination with the geopolitical crisis over Ukraine wills fairly soon forced the government to open up shale because otherwise they will just help Putin when they will be seen as helping Putin just like Joe Biden and his ridiculous anti fossil fuel policies is clearly helping Putin in his in his war effort. So all these anti pipeline anti shale anti fossil fuel governments will come under enormous public pressure to to ease the cost per and the political risk that we’re currently facing.
Robert Bryce 15:06
So you don’t mind me saying this just directly because we, you know, I followed your work for a long time and and admired your dedication to this, but I can’t help but notice that there’s a real anger in how you’re talking about this.
Benny Peiser 15:19
Of course, people are beginning to realize that I mean, we’ve been saying this essentially, for the last 1012 years, this is not something new. We’ve been, we set up in 2009, just in the run up to the Copenhagen Climate Summit. And we’ve been saying, and we’ve never said anything, that you know that climate change isn’t happening, or there is no greenhouse, you know, we’ve always focused on the policies and the costs, we always have said that the cost of the or the risk of the policies are bigger than then the risk we face from climate change. And so we’re very, very consistent. And you can go back, you know, and look at our webpage and our publications, it’s always been the same. And we’ve warned that also of the geopolitical risks, because we realize that the only countries that actually made an effort to decarbonize and to move away from cheap fossil fuels were Western countries, China and Russia and other countries in Asia, they prioritize economic growth and their security, energy security issue, whereas we prioritize the green agenda. And we said, under these circumstances, it is self defeating, because obviously, the co2 is just shifted to other parts of the world, we’re not actually addressing, you know, co2 emissions, we’re just shifting it to parts of the world where they are less stringent regulation. So the whole exercise has been, as I said, unilateral disarmament. And it has, of course, not stopped co2 emissions from rising, it has just made the Western world much, much less effective, competitive, and weak, very weak. And people don’t understand the importance of reliable and cheap energy in their both economic strength and their security. People totally unnecessary. Now, we are beginning to learn the lesson that we’ve made 30 years, we were, you know, most of European countries were totally naive to trust the Russians and to say, you know, give them the almost a hold over our security.
Robert Bryce 17:56
So you’re, well, I’m asking you about that again, because I mean, just the tone, you know, I’ve done now 100 podcasts or so. And I guess I’ve been a reporter for a long time. But it’s, you know, I pay more a lot of attention to the tone of your voice. And I’m saying, I’m only bringing this up, because you’re being proven right. But you’re you’re pissed about being you’re mad about being proven correct here, because the warning signs were clear. Is that Is that am I reading your tone here? Yeah. I mean, I mean, it’s not about you. But I just feel that I’ve been saying some of the same things as well. But it’s just the disaster now that’s unfolding in Ukraine, with Europe seemingly unable to respond in any way that’s meaningful. It just it’s flabbergasting.
Benny Peiser 18:39
Well, it’s not that flabbergasting because this, as I said, is a process that has been going on for at least 30 years, right? This is nothing new. And it’s just now people are beginning to realize just what fatal mistakes have been made. And, you know, it would be foolish of me just to be angry and to say, well, we’ve told you so. And, you know, and that’s it. Sure. We are really trying to we’re really trying to come up with practical and realistic solutions to this problem. We’ve actually published alternative options, Energy policy options that are pragmatic and realistic in the short end in the medium term, and and, but it requires governments to completely revise energy policy and completely abandon the priority of netzero and the green agenda, as long as the government saying that the green agenda tops everything, they will be unable to come to a more pragmatic and more realistic energy policy agenda. And so they now have to basically they have to decide, are we going to protect our economy? Are we going to protect our countries? Are we going to protect our people? Or are we going to protect the green lobby? That’s that’s this the whole thing. It boils down to that.
Robert Bryce 20:17
Do you see that happening in the US? I mean, I don’t know if you saw Biden’s speech in this State of the Union the other night, do you think that they’ve understood this? Or I mean, when I heard no,
Benny Peiser 20:26
no, no, of course not. But at least in the US, you have a partisan situation. In Europe, there’s this old party consensus old party, saying basically all parties are more or less Biden. So we don’t have a Republican Party in Europe that says this is crazy. We need to be realistic about our, you know, energy security, our national security, we don’t have that everyone is banging on that we have to save the planet. And forget about energy security and forget about the economy and forget about the security of our nation, we have to be Greta toon Burg. So that kind of cult, and it is a cult, I think is on the verge of being bombed to reality. And what happens at the, you know, afterwards once people realize that this was a crazy cult, and we have to wake up and sobering up. And I think we’re close to that. But we’re not there yet.
Robert Bryce 21:36
Not sober yet. It’s still a little drunk. Yeah. So who’s to blame here? name names for me, if you don’t mind? I mean, who were the groups but name them, please? Who were the groups and the most aggressive leaders of this policy in Europe and in Britain, that led Europe into this trap that clearly Putin had laid for Europe? Who name names, if you don’t mind?
Benny Peiser 22:01
Well, to be frank, it actually started. I mean, we have had the environmental prophets of doom. Ever since the 60s, sure, no, you know, the poor Ehrlich’s in the US. And we had the same kind of people in Europe, and it all, and they never really had a significant impact on policy because of the cold war. And the conflict between, you know, the free European Western countries and the Soviet Union. Now, with the collapse of the Soviet Union, and the kind of intellectual collapse of communism and socialism, the left turns to environmentalism. And environmentalism in I observed that, and I was actually part of the environmental movement in the late 70s, early 80s. And I was, you know, part of that transition to environmentalism. And the key attack initially was on nuclear energy, long before climate change came came up, and the fear of you know, nuclear energy, being a, you know, risk to our health and to our society, and so on. But environmentalism essentially became an ideology replacing socialism or Marxism. And I, you know, when I say it’s a cult, it’s an ideology, where everything you do everything you think everything you eat, is dominated by the thought of the environment. So you no longer weigh up the pros and the cons, you no longer weigh up the costs and the benefits because only the green agenda is what is important to your policies. Now, the Green Party’s became fairly powerful in the 1980s. And the mainstream parties responded to that by becoming green. All mainstream parties. So that’s what I’m saying. It’s very different in the EU. So
Robert Bryce 24:22
in the UK, the Labour labour and the Tories, both both signed on to this agenda, where as you’re saying, still in the US, there’s been a little bit more balance of power, but the Democrats have been, in my view, and I’m not a Democrat, not a Republican, I’m disgusted, but it’s that they they fully embrace this green agenda and the anti nuclear activist climate activist agenda. And, but what but who are the groups then that led the charge in Europe who you can tell me the green movements, the green, the green, the green party, Germany,
Benny Peiser 24:53
the Green Movement in Europe turned from a kind of, you know, anti nuclear anti Nuclear Power Movement, you know, with demonstrations in two parties, right, and parties gained support significant they went into government, some some countries had to take their made coalition’s with the Green parties and their prize for being part of a government, particularly in Germany was to say, well, we will only, you know, be part of the government as a coalition partner, if you agree to phase out nuclear energy. So it started with nuclear energy in the 80s. And all the mainstream parties then became anti nuclear in Germany. And then, in the 90s, it turns to fossil fuels. And when you first you know, go against nuclear and then against coal and gas, there’s not much left to power your country. The other irony, or tragedy, depending on how you look at it, is the kind of naive utopian belief that you can power an industrial society with solar and wind. So the idea was, we can get rid of all the power plants, replace them with wind turbines and solar panels. And of course, eventually, we’ll have the batteries and we can store all the you know, energy, when the you know, when the wind doesn’t blow, or it’s night or so. Now, of course, that hasn’t happened. And so you need still all the backup for the renewables, which makes this demand for gas. So important, because the basically the gas fired power plants are the backup for the renewables. And that caused all sorts of economic and technological problems, because the gas fired power plants are not running effectively or efficiently. And that makes them very much and more expensive. And also very similar,
Robert Bryce 27:05
very, very similar. Go
Benny Peiser 27:08
asking, who is responsible? And the the answer is that we as a, as a society in Europe, and we’re talking here may, it’s mainly a European phenomenon, but it has spread to other parts of the Western world like Australia, Canada, parts of the US, that there are two reasons. One is that the Europeans thought, You know what, we don’t have that much oil, we don’t have that much gas. So perhaps it’s a good idea. If we go to renewables, that was one major reason for the Europeans to think it might actually be a good idea to move away from fossil fuels, then nuclear never made sense. Never. And that was totally irrational fear mongering. But we have to accept, I think that as a society, the old kind of traditional ideas of stability and risk went out of the window in the last 3040 years. And in Europe, the most intellectuals, academics and politicians have chosen to exaggerate the fear and exaggerate the risk. And that
Robert Bryce 28:36
understanding has been in your speaking about climate change here, or climate change and change and nuclear and nuclear, radio and radiation from nuclear plants. And they
Benny Peiser 28:45
underestimate they’ve overestimated the risk from climate, climate change and from nuclear energy and underestimated the risk of making yourself vulnerable as a result of your policies. Right. And now, they are beginning to realize that, you know, you always have to weigh up, whatever you do comes with a risk and they’ve underestimated the political risk of being so exposed to Russia. And that
Robert Bryce 29:17
political risk I mean, it was but it’s the economic risk as well right? Because now you’re facing just this massive, massive increase in prices. What are the the price increases for most British ratepayers now went up by 52% Is that right now that has just taken effect in the last few weeks?
Benny Peiser 29:33
Yeah, but in the last 12 months, it has doubled, doubled.
Robert Bryce 29:37
So that the average the average consumer including you in Liverpool, you’re facing a electricity and gas bills that are 2x what they were a year ago.
Benny Peiser 29:46
Yeah. And and and by the end of the year, it will be another so it will be three times more expensive than a year ago.
Robert Bryce 29:53
By the end of this year. Your what you will be paying your your household energy bill will be three times what it was last year? Yeah. Yes, staggering. I mean, it’s just staggering. And I just
Benny Peiser 30:06
people, I mean, this is one of the reasons why I don’t think this netzero agenda, this green agenda will survive,
Robert Bryce 30:14
that this has to be the rationality has to prevail, because now that I mean, when it’s being forced upon Europe,
Benny Peiser 30:21
yeah. And any government that fails to, you know, respond to that kind of hit that. And it’s a hit that only not only, you know, households. Experience, I mean, every business, right,
Robert Bryce 30:37
I saw you, I saw your note about the pubs. And now Now you’re getting close to my heart here, when the pubs are facing me. Their increase in energy costs was 800 million pounds increase in just the last few months. Tell, tell me about that, if you don’t mind.
Benny Peiser 30:52
Well, of course, not only the pubs, every restaurant, every every business that has to heat, their you know, and or has a high energy bill, they, if you can pass it on, fine. Like you know, a big shopping centers, we’ll just put up the prices and pass on the increase. But some businesses can’t pass on the cost, because no one is going to come and drink a beer that is twice as expensive as last year. So half of the pups basically face ruin, if they don’t get any support. So the whole economy is facing these enormous hits. And that’s one of the reasons why. And it was already bad before the Russians in the Ukraine, now it’s going mad. So, as I said, for the first time, in 30 years, governments around Europe are beginning to realize that they can’t continue business as usual. Everything has changed, and everything will have to change.
Robert Bryce 32:07
And that starts with getting some drill rigs running in in the shale basins in England and right damn quick.
Benny Peiser 32:13
Absolutely. That’s the first and the easiest, it’s Boris just has to say, we will lift the moratorium and we are inviting every investor from America from around the world who wants to get the gas out of the ground to come to in, we will pave the way we will not put up artificial hurdles and blockades. And I’m told that it would take roughly 12 months to get to start the gas coming out of the ground. And so I
Robert Bryce 32:50
think they’re from what I can, you know, my understanding of the rig count in the US, it’s about half of what it was, you know, two or three years ago there, there should be some available drill rigs, but you’re going to have to get them over there on ships, and you’re going to need some some Texans and some Oklahoma guys to come up with some rough necks to come over there and operate them. And but the technology and the personnel are available, but the you’re saying the political will is going to be available now as well.
Benny Peiser 33:14
Absolutely. And in the past, that government has put all these hurdles and regulate regulatory problems, and it was absolutely, you know, difficult to to actually frack they have to get rid of all of this and to make absolutely sure that people who want to get it out of the ground or not blockaded or hindered by ridiculously, you know, exaggerated regulations. So that’s that’s a challenge. And as I said, My own view is, if the government doesn’t do that, then they are basically toast. There’s no chance
Robert Bryce 33:58
is Boris toast anyway, Boris Johnson, is he out any way with the or is I mean, he’s been remarkably wildly politician. I mean, remarkably durable. But is this, combined with his I don’t know, that was this scandals of the Downing Street parties in COVID. But this is this. This is far more important than that. But it’s just this do you think he stays in power? Or does that mean it’s
Benny Peiser 34:22
for the time being? Yes. Not least because of the war in Ukraine. Right? He plays a very important role in rallying you know, the Western world. He plays a really important role. And but as I said, if he can’t solve the energy cost crisis, I doubt he will survive. That’s the That’s the challenge he has on his hands because it will damage the economy and it will hit families to such an extent that they can’t really heat their homes anymore.
Robert Bryce 34:55
So we’re talking about consumers mainly but the other part of this is the deindustrialization. of Europe, which was starting already last fall when, when the prices were spiking, and you saw fertilizer plants closing, you know, metal plant, aluminum smelters, other kind of industrial plants were shutting down because the costs were so high both for gas and that gas and for electricity, but the capitalist mobile and so does this is does this accelerate the deindustrialization of Britain and the rest of Europe?
Benny Peiser 35:25
Oh, absolutely. Absolutely. And this has been a long process. I mean, part of the, you know, decarbonisation of Europe was that most of the energy intensive industries, the Heavy Industries just went to other parts of the world. And what Europe has done, is to say, look how green we are. So instead of producing the stuff in Europe, it’s being, let’s say, produced in China, we then import these goods, right from China, and say, Look, we’re not emitting any co2. But of course, people don’t realize that the co2 was emitted in China. And that all we’ve done is shifted it, you know, abroad, sure, we have reduced to two, we have only shifted it to other parts of the world, where we are importing, essentially, the products from China that were produced there, and the emissions have gone up there. But you know, the atmosphere doesn’t care where the co2 goes up.
Robert Bryce 36:31
So let’s talk about renewables for a moment. Because I’ve, as you may know, I’ve very closely track the issue of land use and land use constraints in Europe and in the US, and the backlash in the US against the renewable siting and rural areas. I know, the European platform against wind, it’s EPA w.org, I think in 2010, they had 400. Members, now they have something like 1600 member organizations across Europe. So the, as I see it, and I’m gonna just tell, you know, give you my quick brief here, but it’s just that the big lie, and it’s been a lie, I mean, it just a falsehood, I think that’s a whopper of enormous in dimensions was that, oh, we’ll just put all these renewables, you know, all the stuff out there in the countryside. And there’s plenty of vacant land out there, that we can put this stuff on, and, you know, wind turbine, solar panels, etc. And also the transmission lines. So, I’ve shown you my bias, and you know, you’re familiar with what I’ve done, that’s what a lot of what I’ve written about, but tell me about what, you know, the the situation in Scotland and Ireland in Britain on the siding, both of large scale wind projects and transmission lines were what is the situation with those, the land use conflicts there, please.
Benny Peiser 37:43
Right. So I mean, that is different from country to country. Germany in particular is exposed or, you know, onshore, the onshore wind turbines are, you know, very, very extensive. And a lot of farmers don’t actually produce any food anymore. They are farming wind. And we are let’s say they don’t they’re not want farming, when they’re farming, when subsidies, right? In well put, thank you. In Britain, the situation is that most of the wind development is offshore. And, but the costs haven’t come down significantly, despite all the claims that you know, wind is now cheap, the costs remain fairly high, not least, because most of the kind of good locations have been taken, you have to go out, you know, further offshore, deeper waters, more difficult places, and so on. We’re currently spending roughly 11 billion pounds in subsidies to developers, that money is being paid directly through our energy bills. So it’s not something that the government hands out to the developers, it’s something every household, every consumer has to pay via their energy bills.
Robert Bryce 39:18
So I’m sorry, just to interrupt. So that’s 11 billion pounds a year for renewable energy subsidies in the UK. Yeah.
Benny Peiser 39:25
That’s right. Thank you. And that that doesn’t even include the kind of backup mechanisms whereby when there isn’t enough when you have to, you know, fire up coal fired power plants or gas, or the the so called Balance mechanism to make sure that the grid doesn’t collapse, you know, so 11
Robert Bryce 39:49
billion pounds in subsidies alone on on rate payer added to ratepayers bills. But in addition, there’s the balancing costs of just incorporating that that erratic that eat billion, another two or 3 billion. So you’re talking 13 14 billion pounds per year, all in in this added cost to support renewables on the UK grid.
Benny Peiser 40:13
That’s right. And of course, without these subsidies, no one would build a wind turbine. Right, right. I mean, there are some companies who are basically doing some deals with a big, you know, business and selling it to a kind of promotional price if you want, right, right. Not the official get, you know, electricity price, sure, say, Apple, and you want to claim or ICAO, you know, these bigger companies, we use renewables, then you’re ready to pay a lot of money. But it’s not the kind of market price, you’re paying a kind of PR price. But from a purely economic point
Unknown Speaker 40:56
of view, the PR price, that’s good. Go No, no, it’s just well stated the way you just threw it off there. But please go ahead.
Benny Peiser 41:07
And because, you know, some proponents of renewable, so yeah, but then you can build them without subsidies, well, you can only build them, if someone pays you the this PR for so much, much higher price than the market price, right? On market price, no one would be able to survive without subsidies. And so this whole claim, I mean, this is also a realization among politicians the claim for the last 30 years that renewables will eventually be costs become competitive, and so cheap that they can compete with fossil fuels, that hasn’t happened. And, you know, in addition to the cost, you have the insecurity and the into, you know, the kind of the grid stability or instability. And the, and what also people don’t understand is that the backup power plants that you need, you know, the gas fired power plants, in particular, that you need to back up the renewables are both more expensive, because they are not longer running efficiently, and also more emitting. And we actually showed that if you forget about the renewables and only did nuclear and gas, the gas power plants would emit far less co2, because they would be running 24/7. Right, instead of up and down, and, you know, on and off. Sure. And so, all these unintended consequences have added to the destabilization of the national grids, which are very costly to balance and very costly to stabilize. So there are all these unintended consequences of renewables. Basically, renewables are simply, you know, they might work if you only have 10 15% into your system, but once they grow, they destabilize the electricity grid and make everything so much more expensive. Right? On top of the subsidies,
Robert Bryce 43:22
sure. So, you know, I’m in Texas, you know, I’m in the US it, if I, if I gave you the podium, and you were in front of a bunch of American policymakers, you know, both from both parties, or you know, whether, you know, local, national, whatever. What would you tell him?
Benny Peiser 43:41
Oh, that’s simple. Incidentally, I’m coming to the US in the second half of March for some speaking events. Oh, right.
Robert Bryce 43:49
With, with Francis mitten at the Manhattan contrarian. Yes, he’s a prolific writer, and remarkable, remarkable guy. Yeah, I know, well, I know of him. I haven’t met him. But yes, please.
Benny Peiser 44:01
Very simple. It’s very, very simple. North America, if you include Canada, the US. And if you want Mexico, is the energy superpower of the 21st century, if it wants to be only if it wants to be no other part of the world has more energy than North America. If you give away your trump card, don’t be surprised if you lose the game. And that’s what I would say it’s not that difficult to understand, if you want to, you know, compete if you want to still compete. I mean, some people in America don’t want to compete anymore. They want to basically hand over to China. But if you want to still compete in the game, keep your trump cards and don’t throw it away. There is no other part in the world which has more energy than North America.
Robert Bryce 45:01
It’s almost it’s, you know, you said it very well. And I appreciate that. It’s very great, great clarity. But, you know, I have to, as you said that I, I also thought, you know, it’s almost accidental how it even happened, the shale revolution and that George Mitchell and the slickwater frack and how that whole process came about that. Yeah, I mean, it lucky accident, I guess is would be more correct or, you know, you you are in the right place at the right time, you know, but it has been that a lot of capital destroyed in the US 300 billion or more in cash in, in capital was destroyed as the shale revolution matured. But still, we’re at a situation now, where our natural gas is a 10th of the cost of what the you know, is being now paid on the continent and the electricity prices are a fraction. I mean, it should be a wake up call. I mean, it should be the the rankest and most bold kind of wake up call. But I don’t know if the Democrats are getting the memo memo. I you know, I was very, very disappointed with Biden’s speech the other night because he did not mention nuclear energy one time. So again, my guest is Benny Pizer. He’s the director of net zero watch, as well as an affiliated group called the Global Warming Policy Foundation. He’s talking to us from Liverpool. You can find more about him at Net Zero, watch calm and sign up, I’d recommend signing up for their daily email blasts. So will this accelerate? We’ve talked about drilling for gas in in Britain and will this accelerate then the approval of the Hinkley Point C project? Because it seems like that it’s been in limbo now for quite a long time?
Benny Peiser 46:33
No, no, that’s been built. It’s been
Robert Bryce 46:35
built, the nuclear plant has been approved and is being constructed. I thought that was still waiting for final approval. No, no,
Benny Peiser 46:41
that’s, that’s gone ahead. But that’s not enough. That’s, you know, there are two or three older nuclear power plants that are basically being phased out in the next few years. So we need much more nuclear energy. Europe needs much more nuclear energy. And there is a hope that these small modular reactors might be cheaper and quicker. So slowly. And
Robert Bryce 47:11
again, they get in are they getting any traction? I’ve written about that here in the US. And they face the hurdles with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, which is a whole other set of issues that I won’t go into. But are they I know McCrone in France has mentioned SMRs are is the or the French the ones that are going you know, rasa Tom was the leader in this in deploying nuclear now, no one’s gonna be looking
Benny Peiser 47:32
at Oh, we don’t know the Japanese have done. I think they have one running. In America, a couple of companies in Britain, it’s Rolls Royce. So we don’t know who will achieve, you know, breakthrough or success first, but you have to accelerate this. And you mentioned regulatory hurdles, that’s part of the biggest problem for nuclear energy is the high cost you to the regulations. Right. And so the regulations are exaggerated. Again, it’s something that it’s in my view, political not justified, of course, you want safety. And of course, it has to be, but we live in, you know, Western nations with very high safety standards. And, and but you have to weigh up the costs and the risks. And if you don’t weigh them up, then nothing happens. And and you’re stuck. We need to accelerate nuclear energy in a big way. I expect this is going to happen in Europe, very similar to when it happened in the the oil shock, oil shock in 1973. And perhaps these smaller Modular Reactors, ah, hopefully, you know, a medium term solution in the short term. Europe, I’m afraid, is likely to go back to coal. Because there is enough coal, still, particularly in Germany, and other eastern central European countries, they will not give up call now that they have had contact with the Russian bear. And so, in the medium term, a lot of countries will go back to coal. They will relegate the climate agenda, they will that will be basically on the list of priorities will come down. energy supply and energy security will become the key issues. The cost issue as well. There is plenty of gas in Europe. Think about the gas reserves in the Mediterranean. I mean That was the other thing with the Biden administration, they told the Greeks and Israelis, you know, forget about the pipeline to Europe. We need Turkey. And then we could go there saying we need more natural gas to counter Russia. I mean, they’re all over the place.
Robert Bryce 50:19
And I want to I want to follow up on that, because I think that’s a really critical point, right about the Biden administration’s senseless policies on pipelines. Right. You know, they cancelled Keystone XL as soon as it comes into into power, and then says, oh, yeah, Nord Stream two, okay, no problem. And then they pull the support for the East Med, which is the line the pipeline from Israel, which now do that a leviathan and that Tamar fields have massive offshore gas resources that may will extend into Lebanon and south into into Egypt. And so we’re not going to support that. I mean, just a few weeks before Putin invaded Ukraine. So I mean, they’re their pipeline policy, is a friend of mine. A new acquaintance of mine said recently, they have a lot of tactics, but no strategy, which I think is the the perfect summation of what they’re doing. I mean, it’s just makes no sense whatsoever in terms of any strategic approach to these issues. And
Benny Peiser 51:11
so we’re not alone. You know, they’re not alone, that the Biden administration is a mirror image of the average European governments, basically, they’re all over the place. They have no idea what they’re talking about. The only idea they are banging on is net zero, or Green Deal. This is all they can say. That is all they agree upon. What it means what the consequences are, who cares? There is no clear thinking. There is no rational thinking. And the reason is that all the traditional priorities like national security, energy security, supply, security, cost, security, all of that has gone out of the window. It’s completely ignored, because of the Green Deal, or the I don’t know what it’s now called. build back better. Yeah, build back that. Exactly. Yeah. So that is all they can agree upon. And of course, now, as a result, we are where we are.
Robert Bryce 52:24
Well, I’m sobered up.
Unknown Speaker 52:28
This morning, here, it’s afternoon and Liverpool. Well, just a couple of more questions. If
Robert Bryce 52:33
you don’t mind, Benny. It’s been just great. You know, I really appreciate your passion and your time and talking about these issues and and followed your work for quite some time. Just a couple of last questions. So you’ve been thinking about these issues for a long time, and and that you’ve been writing about them for a long time. And unfortunately, now you’re being proven right in so many of these things. So what are you reading now? I mean, are you I know you’re doing a lot of media interviews. You’re publishing a lot, or there are? I’ve been reading John constable’s essays, by the way, who was a great, great guest on the power hungry podcast a few weeks ago? What are you reading these days? Reading? Yes.
Benny Peiser 53:13
Don’t read anything about energy or climate? That’s for sure.
Unknown Speaker 53:17
Okay, well, tell me then what are you reading what is on your bookshelf? Alright, cool.
Benny Peiser 53:21
I’m reading a lot about historical situation that resemble our period of intellectual confusion, cultural change.
Robert Bryce 53:37
And so give me give me an example or two, if you don’t mind.
Benny Peiser 53:41
Well think about the Reformation. Uh, huh. Think about Martin Luther, just as an example. Sure. When he criticized the Catholic Church, the Roman church, he didn’t start by saying, Oh, I have a different theology and your theology is, you know, he started by criticizing their policies. You know, you remember in those days, they had a policy if you put some money into, you know, their church, you could be forgiven for your sins, right?
Robert Bryce 54:18
The ancient equivalent of the modern carbon indulgence, the carbon credits. Yes, exactly.
Benny Peiser 54:24
So I’m interested to understand how, in previous periods of our history, when confusion rained, and people there all traditions were challenged, and they were confused, and they, you know, had all these kind of doomsday predictions and fear mongering and prophets of doom and so on, like we have today. How did philosophers and intellectuals react responded, how did they try to overcome it, and how did they try to come up with, you know, solutions to the confusion. That’s what I’m interested in. That’s my reading, nothing to do with. I mean, obviously day to day I really loose and the papers and you know, reports, but in the evening when I do some serious reading, I, I’m more interested in historical periods of similar confusion, trying to understand also accepting that the the mistakes and the confusion we’re experiencing, are perhaps unavoidable. There is no shortcut shortcut in the confusion. And we just have to come up with better ideas. And sometimes that’s human nature, we make these mistakes, hopefully not as bad as in, you know, previous periods because they were very bad.
Robert Bryce 55:57
So can you name any titles then if you’re if you’re reading about the Martin Luther and the Reformation, any titles of books that come to your mind, then I know you’re talking about the historical period, but any specific books,
Benny Peiser 56:07
any specific books? Yes. I tell you what, go ahead. One book that I’ve read recently, which is kind of astonishing, because it’s about the first doomsday mythology in the world that you know, the Mesopotamian, the baby, baby Leonean flood myth, you know, the the myth that God, the gods decided to destroy mankind by flooding the world. Right, which ended up eventually in the Bible, you know, with the end, an Oxford academic expert, who looked into the tradition, what he discovered, and he wrote this couple of years ago, that originally, the the, the earliest kind of cuneiform writings don’t know anything about a global flood, they only know about some local floods. Right? Hmm. Okay. So originally the earliest traditions in Mesopotamia, about flooding, storms and flooding. So our today our discussion about hurricanes, right? They hadn’t already 4000 years ago. But these were local events. And of course, you can experience local flooding and local storms, they didn’t have any idea about a global disaster. And a few hundreds later, someone came up with the idea to say, Well, if there were these local floods, it must have been a global event. So this, so he shows from the documents, that originally they didn’t have any idea of a global,
Robert Bryce 58:02
but it got exaggerated over time,
Benny Peiser 58:05
got it exaggerated. And of course, it was the royal ideology, that and that is part of the thing that the gods decided to prevent future flooding, by installing King kingdom,
Robert Bryce 58:23
I think, to safeguard to safeguard the population,
Benny Peiser 58:27
that book I read recently, and that was quite an eye opener.
Robert Bryce 58:32
And do you recall the title? I’m just pressing you on this? Because I mean, it’s interesting stay an interesting story, but I’m just
Benny Peiser 58:39
the primordial flood disaster to the primordial flood account or myth. And Oxford University Press, I think. And as I said, it is about the earliest documentary evidence for flood stories and flood events. And it’s really, it’s very kind of it’s not a popular book, it’s, it’s, you know, for sure, it’s revealing because for the first time, it shows that the earliest traditions don’t know anything about and you see the geologist today or some of them, they say that there must be some kind of big flood behind this mythology, there must be some kind of big, you know, and they come up with all these you know, geological theories how it could have happened. No one has thought that this is just an invention by a very by the kind of Babylonian James Hansen.
Unknown Speaker 59:53
It was for people. BILL MCKIBBEN lived in Babylon. That’s terrible. I’m so sorry for them.
Robert Bryce 1:00:02
So let’s let’s conclude my guest again has been Binney Pizer. He’s the director of net zero watch, you can find out more about him at Net Zero watch.com. So, Benny, this has been sobering. But I have to ask you this question I asked all my guests what gives you hope? What are you optimistic about now, given all the challenges that you’re facing in Europe and in there are significant ones. And this this conflict is maybe just in the beginning days, and it could lead to wider conflict? What? What makes you optimistic because I had a pit in my stomach last night, when I saw the attack on the nuclear plant in Ukraine, what what gives you optimism?
Benny Peiser 1:00:38
First of all, that you have to have this kind of historical perspective to realize that shit happens. That’s part of history.
Unknown Speaker 1:00:52
History that some shit happens. Whereas this one guy said, history is the history. His story of history is we went in, we kicked ass and we took over that’s the other. That’s the other summary of history. Yeah.
Benny Peiser 1:01:06
And the other, I think, hopeful situation is that Russia actually is a basket case is a declining culture. It has a demographic problem. They don’t have a men, many young men, if you look at the videos of their soldiers, a lot of them are middle aged guys. They don’t have a lot of young recruits. It’s a very aging, declining society. That desperate, all they have is oil and gas and coal. That’s all they have. Some people say it’s just a gas station. And they are dangerous because a dictator is leading them into what I think will be his Waterloo. I don’t think he will win this conflict. But he will destroy a lot in the in the meantime. And it will be a wake up call for Europeans to get back to reality and wake up from their utopian green dreams.
Robert Bryce 1:02:15
utopian or dystopian.
Benny Peiser 1:02:18
Both both dystopian in that, you know, they claim, you know, Doomsday is nice but utopian in thinking that renewable energy can power Europe. That’s utopian.
Robert Bryce 1:02:35
We’ll stop there. Binney Pizer is my guest he’s at Net Zero watch Net Zero watch.com. I highly recommend you follow his work. It’s really remarkable and he sends out a daily email blast with headlines from Europe about what’s going on there. Binney many thanks for being on the power hungry podcast.
Benny Peiser 1:02:52
Thanks for having me was a pleasure. And to
Robert Bryce 1:02:55
all of you in podcast land tune in for the next episode of the power hungry podcast until then, see ya.