A Global Green New Deal – What Could Possibly Go Wrong?
Showing that he believes Al Gore’s typical misunderstanding that the Chinese word for crisis is made up of the characters for threat and opportunity (it isn’t), Achim Steiner, head of the UN Environment Program, has said that the global financial crisis provides an opportunity for a global green new deal:
The UNEP report said investments of one percent of global gross domestic product, or about $750 billion, could bankroll a “Global Green New Deal” inspired by the “New Deal” of U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt that helped end the depression of the 1930s. [sic]
Investments should be split between more energy efficient buildings, renewable energies, better transport, improved agriculture and measures to safeguard nature — such as fresh water, forests or coral reefs, it said.
The $750bn bill would be paid for by – you guessed it – a tax on oil in rich countries:
“If, for argument’s sake, you were to put a five-year levy in OECD countries of $5 a barrel, you would generate $100 billion per annum. It translates into roughly 3 cents per liter,” he said.
“It would be almost, if not totally, unnoticed by the consumer,” he said, especially since oil prices have fallen from more than $140 a barrel at mid-2008 peaks to about $40.
A barrel of oil contains 158 liters and OECD consumption is about 20 billion barrels a year, he said. “This is just one example, there may be many others,” of funding, he said.
Ah, the “unnoticable” tax – the revenue stream with no consequences, the Holy Grail of socialists and their fellow travelers. While perhaps not noticable at the gas pump, such a tax would be noticable at the aggregate level of the economy. But why worry about a few jobs lost there, a few families forced into poverty here? It all leads to a much better world in terms of renewable energy, no?
Well, no. As is beginning to dawn on some people, the scale of the problem when it comes to CO2 is far beyond the ability of current renewable technology to solve:
The world used 14 trillion watts (14 terawatts) of power in 2006. Assuming minimal population growth (to 9 billion people), slow economic growth (1.6 percent a year, practically recession level) and—this is key—unprecedented energy efficiency (improvements of 500 percent relative to current U.S. levels, worldwide), it will use 28 terawatts in 2050. (In a business-as-usual scenario, we would need 45 terawatts.) Simple physics shows that in order to keep CO2 to 450 ppm, 26.5 of those terawatts must be zero-carbon. That’s a lot of solar, wind, hydro, biofuels and nuclear, especially since renewables kicked in a measly 0.2 terawatts in 2006 and nuclear provided 0.9 terawatts. Are you a fan of nuclear? To get 10 terawatts, less than half of what we’ll need in 2050, [Cal Tech scientist Nate] Lewis calculates, we’d have to build 10,000 reactors, or one every other day starting now. Do you like wind? If you use every single breeze that blows on land, you’ll get 10 or 15 terawatts. Since it’s impossible to capture all the wind, a more realistic number is 3 terawatts, or 1 million state-of-the art turbines, and even that requires storing the energy—something we don’t know how to do—for when the wind doesn’t blow. Solar? To get 10 terawatts by 2050, Lewis calculates, we’d need to cover 1 million roofs with panels every day from now until then. “It would take an army,” he says. Obama promised green jobs, but still.
In other words, this global green new deal will solve no problems, while exacerbating the current problem of too little money to go around by extracting more money from the viable economy. Just like the original New Deal, then.