The UK has suffered from a series of disruptive eco-socialist protests by those regurgitating the most apocalyptic possible interpretation of climate science in recent weeks. Extinction Rebellion has abseiled from Tower Bridge, glued themselves to oil tankers and roads, and tunnelled underneath oil depots. All these stunts are in the name of ending fossil fuel consumption. These costly and dangerous inconveniences have been endorsed by the UK’s Green Party — who have an elected MP, and Baroness in our House of Lords. Their party members and candidates have campaigned with various environmental groups on environmental issues. So why do their energy policies always impoverish, and their anti-gas activism cause countries to return to reliance on Russian exports?
The Green Party’s website states that their energy plan will be “based primarily on renewable, very low carbon sources”, while “Nuclear power, coal and incineration of waste will be phased out.” With the decommissioning of natural gas production, “Carbon capture and storage (CCS) infrastructure, […] will be established to ensure decarbonisation of power supply by natural gas”. The transition will be facilitated by the electrification of existing gas infrastructure: including cars and public transport, household boilers and stovetops, heavy goods vehicles, and even wind turbines.
The removal of any consistent, dispatchable generation baseload from the grid will be purportedly ameliorated by an interconnected web of subterranean pipelines, which share excesses of renewably generated energy between neighbouring countries. This will require new international treaties be signed, relying on a “John Lennon’s Imagine” worldview: that all peoples can live cooperatively without cultural friction producing conflicts of interest. It would also require rapid innovations in cybersecurity and EMP protection, given the US’ Congressional Advisory Board has stated that China is developing capabilities for EMP attacks on America’s energy grid.
Despite these infrastructural and national security concerns, lay press outlets parrot Green policies. The Independent’s climate columnist, Donnachadh McCarthy, echoed protesters’ calls for a discontinuation of Britain’s investment in repatriating liquid natural gas production. He argues for a wholesale replacement of our existing diverse (and increasingly diversifying) grid with renewables, on the grounds that it is cheaper. This ignores the existing twenty-three percent of household energy bills which subsidise the renewables industry, and the £20 per MWh cost increase resulting from that increase in generation and storage capacity. Ignoring the realities of existing renewables’ technological limitations will have costly consequences.
Energy consumption demand will not decrease — particularly as our transport and household appliances electrify, and manufacturing capacity is automated. Therefore, should renewables fail, where will we find our supply?
In countries where domestic gas production declined, and nuclear power plants were decommissioned, reliance on Russian gas imports increased. Biden Administration policies produced a moratorium on fossil fuel extraction on federal lands, and Russian crude imports doubled. Likewise, as North Sea exploration fell by seventy-five percent since 2000, the UK’s gas imports from Russia doubled to six percent.
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As my research for The Adam Smith Institute outlined, former German Chancellor, Angela Merkel’s crusade against the country’s nuclear power plants after Japan’s Fukushima disaster produced lethal brownouts. Renewables could not replace nuclear wholesale, causing Germany to revert to coal and liquid natural gas. To secure a supply, Germany began spending more on the joint construction with the Nordstream 2 pipeline with Russia, than on NATO defence. This short-sighted energy security strategy has produced accusations that their continued purchase of Russian gas (comprising forty percent of imports) is funding Putin’s ongoing invasion of Ukraine.
Far from learning its lesson, Germany’s new Green Party government has appointed the head of Greenpeace its international climate envoy. But relying on ideological NGOs to spearhead a mandated renewables-only climate policy plays right into Putin’s hands.
The Kremlin has been bankrolling Western activists to undermine efforts to achieve national and energy security. State-owned firm Gazprom has funded protest movements pushing to abandon nuclear and homegrown natural gas in Belgium, Germany, France, Bulgaria, and Romania. The NRDC, The Sierra Club, and the League of Conversation Voters accepted between $13-$18 million in donations from Russian shell company the Sea Change Foundation, asatellite asset of Russian state-owned oil company Rosneft. Leading up to the 2016 US election, Russia Today produced sixty anti-fracking stories a year. This subterfuge aims to foster global strategic dependence on Russian gas exports, when an over-reliance on renewables inevitably fails. Prior to the Ukraine invasion, it worked: with Gazprom providing thirty percent of the EU’s natural gas.
Reactions to the UK’s recent energy strategy has become a case study. Following bans on Russian gas, the UK has pledged to reinvest in the exploration of its North Sea oil and gas reserves — hence the recent explosion of anti-fossil-fuel activism. The UK’s Green Party has supported this direct action, and even had leaders arrested at previous protests. Despite Germany’s failed denuclearisation, the sole Green MP, Caroline Lucas, continues to claim that the UK “doesn’t need nuclear energy.”
But the Greens’ shared narratives with Russia extend beyond energy. The Welsh Green Party’s former leader, Pippa Bartolotti, has promoted Russian state press narratives on the Ukraine invasion. Sitting leadership of the Green Party declined to comment.
We can see an uncomfortable convergence between Russian energy interests and the aims of various Green parties and affiliated protest movements. It is unconscionable to fund Putin’s war machine, and the Green’s pipedream policies will do just that. Those endorsing the inviable, impractical, and expensive proposition of a mandated renewables-only energy grid must either embrace that their misguided policies will produce energy poverty and a resulting reliance on exports from states like Russia, or abandon these proposals and return to the drawing board.
Decarbonising the energy grid requires market competition and diversified supply — not becoming fifth-columnists for Russian imperialism.
Connor Tomlinson is the Head of Research for the British Conservation Alliance and a political commentator for Young Voices UK. He appears regularly in American Spectator and on talkRadio. Follow him on Twitter: @Con_Tomlinson