Future historians are going to have as much trouble understanding this age as contemporary authors have in dealing with the Salem witch trials.
There is just about as much rationality in the government’s current plans to spend £20 billion on sucking carbon dioxide out of power station flue gasses and burying it in the ground under the sea. Of all the things on which our government could spend our money, this has to qualify as about the most insane thing it could possibly do.
It transcends anything Jonathan Swift could have imagined for the mad scientists of the Academy of Lagado where, by contrast, the process of extracting sunbeams from cucumbers is the epitome of sanity.
Furthermore, this is not just some vague, scatty scheme for the future, to keep the lunatic greens happy, without an actual commitment to do anything. Real, apparently sentient people like Grant Shapps, the energy and net-zero secretary, is to unveil not one but six carbon capture and storage projects on the east coast of England and Merseyside.
They are, we are told, likely to include the Keadby 3 gas-fired power station in Lincolnshire and the HyNet hydrogen power scheme in Liverpool, forming part of what is considered to be a key part of Britain’s new industrial “strategy” – enterprises apparently intending to replace the production of oil and gas from the North Sea.
This actually lends a new and additional dimension to the insanity, where productive and valuable industries are to be wound up, to be replaced by these parasitic enterprises which will suck vitality out of the economy, along with what will become the most expensive (unused) plant food in the history of mankind.
The idiot Shapps, it seems, is set to announce this mad scheme on Thursday from either Aberdeen or Hull, in a grand extravaganza branded as a “clean-energy reset”, when he will also publish a detailed timeline for the approval of carbon capture programmes in Scotland.
To add yet another layer of insanity to the pile, this monumental waste of money is actually being labelled as an “investment”, supposedly favouring “red wall” seat. The money, though, is to come from levies on energy bills, thereby increasing costs still further – as if they weren’t high enough already.
The term “investment” would be warranted if it was being directed at a technology which made energy more accessible, secure or cheaper, but this mad scheme is devoted to increasing the costs of producing electricity and using more energy in the process – anything up to 40 percent just to power the carbon capture process.
All of this, of course, is part of the general madness which has been infecting the body politic for well over 20 years but The Times says, ministers are now under increasing pressure to meet the [self-imposed] legally binding net-zero targets.
We’ve been writing about this onset of madness for over 15 years, and as early as 11 years ago, the government was trying and failing to get a scheme up and running, with a bounty of £1 billion of taxpayers’ money on offer.
Even then, this was not enough to incentivise a scheme at Longannet power station in Scotland, then the third largest coal-fired power station in Europe, where the capital costs were estimated at £1.5 billion. Failure of the scheme led to the closure of the plant, and the eventual demolition of its chimney stack in 2021.
The technical difficulties are such that, in 2010 I was writing that carbon capture and storage was a profoundly non-feasible option for reducing carbon emissions, even if you bought into the climate change religion.
But, never one to abandon an insane scheme, when there is the potential for wasting billions of hard-earned taxpayers’ cash, the government revisited its idiocy in 2020 with a ten point plan for a green industrial revolution, at the behest of the moronic Boris Johnson.
Included in the plan was a commitment to deploy carbon capture in a minimum of two clusters by the mid-2020s, and four clusters by 2030 at the latest, with an ambition to capture 10MtCO₂/year by 2030, funded by “consumer subsidies” and an “investment of £2-3 billion by the oil and gas sector.
The plan was revisited in 2021 and updated in December 2022, building on a “Carbon Capture and Storage Infrastructure Fund” which had been first announced in the Budget of March 2020.
Giving early warning that the madness had not abated, we had The Times a week ago telling us that “£20bn carbon capture pledge ‘is more than hot air’”. This had the government saying that it wanted “spades in the ground on these projects from next year”, adding that carbon capture has become a crucial part of Britain’s decarbonisation plans.
However, the paper also conceded that the technology did not make commercial sense. Most emitters at today’s carbon prices find it more expensive to invest in capturing and storing emissions than it is to carry on emitting and pay the penalty. Hence, without government “support” – i.e., an imposed levy on electricity customers – the scheme is going nowhere.
As yet, though – as a select committee recently reported – carbon capture, utilisation and storage (CCUS – as it is now called) “is a technology that is currently not deployed at the large scale required to make a material contribution to our emissions reductions, nor are the economic and commercial conditions established for its mass use”.
In fact, even the Guardian has a downer on the technology, publicising last year research by the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis (IEEFA) which dismissed CCUS, declaring that it “is not a climate solution”.
Of the 13 projects examined for the study – accounting for about 55 percent of the world’s current operational capacity – seven underperformed, two failed and one was mothballed, the report found. “Many international bodies and national government are relying on carbon capture in the fossil fuel sector to get to net zero, and it simply won’t work,” Bruce Robertson, the author of the IEEFA report, said.
Eleven months ago, the Financial Times was noting that efforts to get CCUS up and running on conventional power plants have been woeful. Over the past 14 years, it said, governments have announced a total of $24 billion in funding commitments for projects, with companies having spent at least $9.5 billion since 2005.
Few technologies, it concluded, have had so much money thrown at them for so many years by so many governments and companies, with such feeble results.
Putting it into financial context, it tells us that a sizeable coal plant, without carbon capture, might cost $1.4 billion to build but adding CCUS adds about another $1 billion. On top of that, some of the electricity the plant generates, the main source of income for the owner, has to be diverted to run the carbon capture system. The upshot: a lot more money for a less efficient power plant.
Bringing this madness up-to-date, the Greens are distinctly underwhelmed by the government’s current plans, dismissing the government’s restored enthusiasm for CCUS as a device to “boost the oil and gas industry with questionable gains for the environment”.
The potential licensing of a massive new oilfield, Rosebank, under cover of investing in carbon capture and storage technology, is seen by campaigners as “greenwash”. This, therefore, seems to be a technology with no friends and no track record of actually working, while lacking any evidence as to its commercial viability.
And yet, this is what passes for Conservative Party policy. One wonders whether the French have it so wrong.