What do Mark Carney’s recent troubles and climate policy have in common?

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This morning former Shadow Chancellor and Strictly star Ed Balls waded into the current controversy about the role of an independent Bank of England. Along with Gordon Brown, Balls was the man who pulled the rabbit of central bank independence out of the hat the day after the 1997 election that brought Labour to power. Today Balls argued that:

‘If in the end when things start to go wrong, everything is concentrated in the Bank of England only, that is politically dangerous for the Bank. So in order to protect independence, the Bank needs more political support and accountability’

Balls’ intervention comes after Theresa May’s criticism of quantitative easing in the Tory party conference speech in October, and then a series of more direct attacks by senior Tory politicians on Mark Carney, the Bank’s Governor, most recently by Jacob Rees-Mogg. There have also been attacks on the US’s Federal Bank by Donald Trump. Continue reading

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Energy competitiveness in the Budget – going for cheap and dirty, not lean and clean

Steel-MakingMuch of the discussion of today’s Budget will be about wins for pensioners and bingo players, but another winner was energy-intensive industry. Setting the background, the Budget text involved some fairly selective data and glided over a few inconvenient facts. Continue reading

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Response to Guy Newey on carbon pricing

Policy ExchangeGuy Newey, head of environment and energy at the centre-right think-tank Policy Exchange has written a critique of my post on the politics of carbon pricing. Just a few further thoughts in response: Continue reading

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The politics of carbon pricing

EU 2030 FrameworkThe anti-renewables bandwagon is rolling ever faster. This started some time ago, but has now started to bite on policy, as seen in the EU’s 2030 proposals which contain no binding renewables target. There is an emerging view, to be found especially amongst economists (including The Economist) and on the centre-right (as opposed to the hard right anti-all climate policy view) that the focus should shift away from renewables support and back towards carbon pricing. Carbon pricing, the argument goes, will deliver emissions reduction at least cost. The implication is that, because it will be much cheaper than renewables, it will be politically a lot more popular, or at least easier.

I see two reasons for thinking that it’s not as simple as it seems, and that putting all hope in carbon pricing and backing off from renewables policy may run into trouble. Continue reading

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More on the Anglo-German conundrum

Flags of Germany and Great BritainAt the conference of the British Institute of Energy Economists yesterday, one of the speakers (the conference was held under Chatham House Rules) poured scorn on German energy policy, pointing to the €200 billion that will be paid out in subsidies over the next 10 years to renewables, the offshore wind turbines kept going by diesel and the socialisation of costs incurred where developers face delays. Economic efficiency, he said, should be at the heart of energy policy, Germans have ignored this and have paid the price. By contrast, Continue reading

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The (German) tortoise and the (British) hare

The tortoise and the hareI have been looking at long-term trends in grid electricity carbon coefficients (i.e. how much CO2 is generated across the whole electricity system to produce a given amount of power). This is a good overall indicator of the sustainability of the electricity system in a country from a climate point of view, and is determined by the fuel mix.

The trends for the UK and Germany since 1990 (shown in grams of CO2 per kWh – data are from the International Energy Agency) are interesting: Continue reading

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The Burning Question – the best three-quarters of a book I have ever read on climate change

The-Burning-Question-book-cover[1]The climate book of the moment is The Burning Question, by Mike Berners-Lee and Duncan Clark. It comes adorned with glowing recommendations from an amazing array of big figures, from Al Gore and Jim Hansen to Mike Barry of M&S and Sam Fankhauser at the LSE. Of recent books on climate change, it is the one that seems to have touched a nerve, making it high up on the bestsellers list at the Guardian.

And this is indeed the best three-quarters of a book I have read on climate change Continue reading

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