A condenser sits on the roof during the installation of a heat pump on Jan. 20, 2023, in Denver. A bipartisan coalition of about 25 governors and the Biden administration are set to announce a pledge Thursday, Sept. 21, 2023, to quadruple the number of heat pumps in U.S. homes by 2030. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski, File)

Over the past decade we’ve learned that failure and misfortune often follow when people who bleed green are allowed formulate emissions reduction policies. Experience has shown green transition targets set by inept policy makers like Steven Guilbeault, Canada’s greener than goose poop environment minister, generally turn out to be hopelessly unrealistic.

The Canadian government’s plans for “the green transition” are vulnerable to the same forces that have been derailing emissions reduction plans in Europe. Two of the more common and significant causes of failure of climate change and emissions reduction policies are:

  1. Magical thinking—Emissions reduction benchmarks and deadlines often involve impossibly high expectations that simply cannot be met by mere mortals. Crusading policy makers often fail to anticipate the many technical, economic and social barriers that can frustrate overly optimistic green transition targets. They seem to reason that because they are right and virtuous, what they desire is destined to happen. In other words, advocates for rapid and radical emissions reduction targets frequently fall victim to the sort of magical thinking that makes limited reference to practical reality.
  2. The BANANA syndrome— Onerous, overly complicated environmental approval rules and processes can drive societies BANANAs (the build absolutely nothing anywhere near anything syndrome). Rules designed to stymie the construction of new oil pipelines and coal-fired power plants are now blocking the development of projects intended to benefit the environment.

Recent examples showing these forces in action are discussed below. They include the collapse in investment for new offshore wind farms in the UK and the failures of campaigns in Europe and the UK to decarbonize the heating of buildings. This past month The Economist and  Guardian newspapers dealt with these issues and their reporting informs much of what follows.

  • 0067 PFM SaskWorks Payroll Investment Plan
    0067 PFM SaskWorks Payroll Investment Plan
  • 0066 WBPC Promo video 30 seconds
    0066 WBPC Promo video 30 seconds
  • 0065 Anova Resources field operator Oxbow
    0065 Anova Resources field operator Oxbow
  • 0064 Estevan OTS
    0064 Estevan OTS
  • 0063 Turnbull Excavating hiring crusher
    0063 Turnbull Excavating hiring crusher
  • 0062 TED_EPAC_Technology_30
    0062 TED_EPAC_Technology_30
  • 0061 SIMSA 2024 For Sask Buy Sask
    0061 SIMSA 2024 For Sask Buy Sask
  • 0060 Arizona Lithium Lease building
    0060 Arizona Lithium Lease building
  • 0059 Southeast College Heavy Equipment Operator
    0059 Southeast College Heavy Equipment Operator
  • 0058 Royal Helium Steveville opens anonymous rocket
    0058 Royal Helium Steveville opens anonymous rocket
  • 0055 Smart Power Be Smart with your Power office
    0055 Smart Power Be Smart with your Power office
  • 0053 Kingston Midstream Westspur Alameda Click Before You Dig large text
    0053 Kingston Midstream Westspur Alameda Click Before You Dig large text
  • 0052 Predator Inspections
    0052 Predator Inspections
  • 0051 JML Hiring Pumpjack assembly
    0051 JML Hiring Pumpjack assembly
  • 0049 Scotsburn Dental soft guitar
    0049 Scotsburn Dental soft guitar
  • 0046 City of Estevan This is Estevan
    0046 City of Estevan This is Estevan
  • 0041 DEEP Since 2018 now we are going to build
    0041 DEEP Since 2018 now we are going to build
  • 0032 IWS Summer hiring rock trailer music
  • 0022 Grimes winter hiring
  • 0021 OSY Rentals S8 Promo
  • 0018 IWS Hiring Royal Summer
  • 0015 Latus Viro
    0015 Latus Viro
  • 0013 Panther Drilling PO ad 03 top drive rigs
  • 0011
  • 0006 JK Junior
  • 0002 gilliss casing services
    0002 gilliss casing services
  • 9002 Pipeline Online 30 sec EBEX
    9002 Pipeline Online 30 sec EBEX
  • 9001

 

Wind farms in the UK

In the UK, new and previously announced wind farm projects have fallen victim this year to the effects of magical thinking. It turns out that Boris Johnson had been excessively optimistic in predicting a relatively quick and painless green energy transition. For one thing, his government assumed decreases in the price of green energy would provide virtually all the economic incentive needed to curb the use of fossil fuels in electrical power generation.

For a while it looked like it might work. Back in 2021, the UK approved what was promoted as the world’s largest offshore wind farm — the Norfolk Boreas. However, this past July the project’s Swedish developer halted construction, claiming that wildly escalating materials costs made the giant wind farm economically unviable. It was supposed to have become operational in 2027.

  • 0067 PFM SaskWorks Payroll Investment Plan
    0067 PFM SaskWorks Payroll Investment Plan
  • 0066 WBPC Promo video 30 seconds
    0066 WBPC Promo video 30 seconds
  • 0065 Anova Resources field operator Oxbow
    0065 Anova Resources field operator Oxbow
  • 0064 Estevan OTS
    0064 Estevan OTS
  • 0063 Turnbull Excavating hiring crusher
    0063 Turnbull Excavating hiring crusher
  • 0062 TED_EPAC_Technology_30
    0062 TED_EPAC_Technology_30
  • 0061 SIMSA 2024 For Sask Buy Sask
    0061 SIMSA 2024 For Sask Buy Sask
  • 0060 Arizona Lithium Lease building
    0060 Arizona Lithium Lease building
  • 0059 Southeast College Heavy Equipment Operator
    0059 Southeast College Heavy Equipment Operator
  • 0058 Royal Helium Steveville opens anonymous rocket
    0058 Royal Helium Steveville opens anonymous rocket
  • 0055 Smart Power Be Smart with your Power office
    0055 Smart Power Be Smart with your Power office
  • 0053 Kingston Midstream Westspur Alameda Click Before You Dig large text
    0053 Kingston Midstream Westspur Alameda Click Before You Dig large text
  • 0052 Predator Inspections
    0052 Predator Inspections
  • 0051 JML Hiring Pumpjack assembly
    0051 JML Hiring Pumpjack assembly
  • 0049 Scotsburn Dental soft guitar
    0049 Scotsburn Dental soft guitar
  • 0046 City of Estevan This is Estevan
    0046 City of Estevan This is Estevan
  • 0041 DEEP Since 2018 now we are going to build
    0041 DEEP Since 2018 now we are going to build
  • 0032 IWS Summer hiring rock trailer music
  • 0022 Grimes winter hiring
  • 0021 OSY Rentals S8 Promo
  • 0018 IWS Hiring Royal Summer
  • 0015 Latus Viro
    0015 Latus Viro
  • 0013 Panther Drilling PO ad 03 top drive rigs
  • 0011
  • 0006 JK Junior
  • 0002 gilliss casing services
    0002 gilliss casing services
  • 9002 Pipeline Online 30 sec EBEX
    9002 Pipeline Online 30 sec EBEX
  • 9001

 

No less troubling, at this year’s auction of 15-year contracts for the right to sell offshore wind-generated electricity in the UK no new offshore wind contracts were awarded. Despite there being 5.7 GW capacity on offer there were no bites. None of the biggest players in offshore wind power generation even bothered to bid at the auction held earlier this month. The UK uses a Dutch auction system and this year’s starting maximum was US $53.22/MWh which was higher than the previous auction’s winning bid of US $45.77/MWh. Industry leaders claimed that the starting maximum was too low to allow for profitable power generation. They claimed that to be economically viable projects would need to earn at least US $75.33/MWh.

The Guardian worries that the wind farm auction flop “risks creating a domino effect of failed climate targets.”

The UK’s 2022 climate plan proposes increasing wind generated power capacity by 300% to 50GW by 2030. That would provide enough wind power to supply electricity to every home in the UK. The UK’s wind powered electrical production capacity is currently 15GW. The plan’s ultimate goals were to reach ‘net zero’ emissions for electrical power generation devoted to households by 2035 and ‘net zero’ for all of the electricity consumed in Britain by 2050. What’s more, the UK has pledged to significantly limit the sale of gas and diesel-fueled cars by 2030. The accompanying switch to electric cars will of course increase demand for electrical power production.

Clearly, the 2030 wind power deadline was impossibly optimistic. According to The Economist, it would have required building “three or four new Norfolk Boreas a year.”

Fécamp Offshore Wind Project. This is off the coast of France, not England. Canadian pipeline giant Enbridge is investing heavily into offshore wind near France. LinkedIn/Enbridge

 

As it happens, moving wind farm installations onto terra firma can be just as problematic as getting them built on the ocean. Getting new onshore wind farms built in the UK is fraught with NIMBY (not in my backyard) protests and a morass of municipal bylaws and approval barriers.  In an effort to encourage approvals the UK recently tweaked its project approval process. Apparently it is no longer the case that a complaint by a single resident of a community can sink a wind farm application. However, it’s still the case that to get communities adjacent to proposed wind farms onside, developers often have to offer them a share of the profits. It reminds one of the duty to consult First Nations and the practice of offering them a piece of the action before developers can hope to get a pipeline built here in Canada.

The net result is like BANANA on steroids. The Economist reports that just two onshore wind turbines have been set up in England over the past three years.

  • 0067 PFM SaskWorks Payroll Investment Plan
    0067 PFM SaskWorks Payroll Investment Plan
  • 0066 WBPC Promo video 30 seconds
    0066 WBPC Promo video 30 seconds
  • 0065 Anova Resources field operator Oxbow
    0065 Anova Resources field operator Oxbow
  • 0064 Estevan OTS
    0064 Estevan OTS
  • 0063 Turnbull Excavating hiring crusher
    0063 Turnbull Excavating hiring crusher
  • 0062 TED_EPAC_Technology_30
    0062 TED_EPAC_Technology_30
  • 0061 SIMSA 2024 For Sask Buy Sask
    0061 SIMSA 2024 For Sask Buy Sask
  • 0060 Arizona Lithium Lease building
    0060 Arizona Lithium Lease building
  • 0059 Southeast College Heavy Equipment Operator
    0059 Southeast College Heavy Equipment Operator
  • 0058 Royal Helium Steveville opens anonymous rocket
    0058 Royal Helium Steveville opens anonymous rocket
  • 0055 Smart Power Be Smart with your Power office
    0055 Smart Power Be Smart with your Power office
  • 0053 Kingston Midstream Westspur Alameda Click Before You Dig large text
    0053 Kingston Midstream Westspur Alameda Click Before You Dig large text
  • 0052 Predator Inspections
    0052 Predator Inspections
  • 0051 JML Hiring Pumpjack assembly
    0051 JML Hiring Pumpjack assembly
  • 0049 Scotsburn Dental soft guitar
    0049 Scotsburn Dental soft guitar
  • 0046 City of Estevan This is Estevan
    0046 City of Estevan This is Estevan
  • 0041 DEEP Since 2018 now we are going to build
    0041 DEEP Since 2018 now we are going to build
  • 0032 IWS Summer hiring rock trailer music
  • 0022 Grimes winter hiring
  • 0021 OSY Rentals S8 Promo
  • 0018 IWS Hiring Royal Summer
  • 0015 Latus Viro
    0015 Latus Viro
  • 0013 Panther Drilling PO ad 03 top drive rigs
  • 0011
  • 0006 JK Junior
  • 0002 gilliss casing services
    0002 gilliss casing services
  • 9002 Pipeline Online 30 sec EBEX
    9002 Pipeline Online 30 sec EBEX
  • 9001

 

The Guardian’s pessimism about the future of Britain’s green transition may be warranted. This past July, Rishi Sunak, the UK’s current prime minister, was promoting the need for more North Sea oil production. The Economist speculates that Sunak took the defeat of a referendum in support of expanding London’s low fossil fuel “car free” emissions zones as a signal that citizens are experiencing transition fatigue. An increasing proportion of Britons are demanding a reduction in the pace, scope and cost of the green transition. (Take note, Charlie Clark and Steven Guilbeault.)

But then again, the effort to ban the sale of new gas and diesel cars in the UK by 2030 is proving impossible, as well. Just a few days ago, on Sept. 20, Prime Minister Sunak delayed the ban by five years, citing a need to ease the financial burden on households.

Magical thinking and the heat pump transition

Efforts to decarbonize the heating of buildings in Europe are similarly stumbling due to overly ambitious benchmarks and deadlines combined with failures to anticipate technical problems and popular opposition. (At present, the UK along with 12 EU member states have plans to ban the installation of new conventional heating systems.)

The heating alternative preferred in these countries is heat pump technology. Germany had one of the most ambitious adoption plans. It intended to ban the installation of new gas and oil-fired heating systems in houses by the end of 2024. Those plans have been shelved due to an eruption of public opposition. Similarly, Britain’s goal of having heat pumps installed in homes at the rate 600,000 annually by 2028 is now widely assumed to be unachievable.

Heat pumps operate like refrigerators in reverse. Heat is created by warming a liquid refrigerant with ambient air, then turning it into a gas which generates heat when compressed. Notwithstanding the energy and emissions reductions offered by heat pumps a litany of problems has made adoption a politically toxic, technological headache.

  • 0067 PFM SaskWorks Payroll Investment Plan
    0067 PFM SaskWorks Payroll Investment Plan
  • 0066 WBPC Promo video 30 seconds
    0066 WBPC Promo video 30 seconds
  • 0065 Anova Resources field operator Oxbow
    0065 Anova Resources field operator Oxbow
  • 0064 Estevan OTS
    0064 Estevan OTS
  • 0063 Turnbull Excavating hiring crusher
    0063 Turnbull Excavating hiring crusher
  • 0062 TED_EPAC_Technology_30
    0062 TED_EPAC_Technology_30
  • 0061 SIMSA 2024 For Sask Buy Sask
    0061 SIMSA 2024 For Sask Buy Sask
  • 0060 Arizona Lithium Lease building
    0060 Arizona Lithium Lease building
  • 0059 Southeast College Heavy Equipment Operator
    0059 Southeast College Heavy Equipment Operator
  • 0058 Royal Helium Steveville opens anonymous rocket
    0058 Royal Helium Steveville opens anonymous rocket
  • 0055 Smart Power Be Smart with your Power office
    0055 Smart Power Be Smart with your Power office
  • 0053 Kingston Midstream Westspur Alameda Click Before You Dig large text
    0053 Kingston Midstream Westspur Alameda Click Before You Dig large text
  • 0052 Predator Inspections
    0052 Predator Inspections
  • 0051 JML Hiring Pumpjack assembly
    0051 JML Hiring Pumpjack assembly
  • 0049 Scotsburn Dental soft guitar
    0049 Scotsburn Dental soft guitar
  • 0046 City of Estevan This is Estevan
    0046 City of Estevan This is Estevan
  • 0041 DEEP Since 2018 now we are going to build
    0041 DEEP Since 2018 now we are going to build
  • 0032 IWS Summer hiring rock trailer music
  • 0022 Grimes winter hiring
  • 0021 OSY Rentals S8 Promo
  • 0018 IWS Hiring Royal Summer
  • 0015 Latus Viro
    0015 Latus Viro
  • 0013 Panther Drilling PO ad 03 top drive rigs
  • 0011
  • 0006 JK Junior
  • 0002 gilliss casing services
    0002 gilliss casing services
  • 9002 Pipeline Online 30 sec EBEX
    9002 Pipeline Online 30 sec EBEX
  • 9001

 

Heat pump systems can typically warm water to around 55o C, whereas conventional systems heat it to approximately 75oC. As a result many buildings can’t make use of heat pumps without first upgrading their insulation. For many buildings increasing the R-value by adding insulation to walls won’t suffice. Frequently in such cases the solution is in-floor heating.

When home owners who are confronted with the expense of reinsulating their homes and the inconvenience of having to rip up their floor boards tend to lose whatever enthusiasm they might have had for the greening of home heating.

But wait, there’s more. Remember when the refrigeration industry was required to find new refrigerants because the ones they were using presumably damaged the ozone layer? The industry adopted new refrigerants, but it turns out those refrigerants are more hazardous greenhouse gases than CO2. Apparently molecule for molecule they have several thousand times the warming effect of CO2. Conscientious environmentalists can’t have powerful greenhouse gases leaking out of heat pumps and entering the atmosphere.

Ironically, the widely endorsed replacement refrigerant as of today is propane – a by-product of natural gas and petroleum production.

But wait, there’s still more. Propane can explode under certain conditions. We can’t have that in the house. It would be as dangerous as heating with natural gas. But shouldn’t that be okay? Propane like natural gas comes with an odorant that helps us detect leaks. The chemical odorants reduce propane’s effectiveness as a refrigerant. Environmental policy makers are still  grappling with solutions to that problem. One is to limit the propane in a heat pump to no more than 150 grams. Another is to install ventilation systems to vent any gas leaking from indoor pumps. The most popular option is to attach the pumps to the outside of buildings.

  • 0067 PFM SaskWorks Payroll Investment Plan
    0067 PFM SaskWorks Payroll Investment Plan
  • 0066 WBPC Promo video 30 seconds
    0066 WBPC Promo video 30 seconds
  • 0065 Anova Resources field operator Oxbow
    0065 Anova Resources field operator Oxbow
  • 0064 Estevan OTS
    0064 Estevan OTS
  • 0063 Turnbull Excavating hiring crusher
    0063 Turnbull Excavating hiring crusher
  • 0062 TED_EPAC_Technology_30
    0062 TED_EPAC_Technology_30
  • 0061 SIMSA 2024 For Sask Buy Sask
    0061 SIMSA 2024 For Sask Buy Sask
  • 0060 Arizona Lithium Lease building
    0060 Arizona Lithium Lease building
  • 0059 Southeast College Heavy Equipment Operator
    0059 Southeast College Heavy Equipment Operator
  • 0058 Royal Helium Steveville opens anonymous rocket
    0058 Royal Helium Steveville opens anonymous rocket
  • 0055 Smart Power Be Smart with your Power office
    0055 Smart Power Be Smart with your Power office
  • 0053 Kingston Midstream Westspur Alameda Click Before You Dig large text
    0053 Kingston Midstream Westspur Alameda Click Before You Dig large text
  • 0052 Predator Inspections
    0052 Predator Inspections
  • 0051 JML Hiring Pumpjack assembly
    0051 JML Hiring Pumpjack assembly
  • 0049 Scotsburn Dental soft guitar
    0049 Scotsburn Dental soft guitar
  • 0046 City of Estevan This is Estevan
    0046 City of Estevan This is Estevan
  • 0041 DEEP Since 2018 now we are going to build
    0041 DEEP Since 2018 now we are going to build
  • 0032 IWS Summer hiring rock trailer music
  • 0022 Grimes winter hiring
  • 0021 OSY Rentals S8 Promo
  • 0018 IWS Hiring Royal Summer
  • 0015 Latus Viro
    0015 Latus Viro
  • 0013 Panther Drilling PO ad 03 top drive rigs
  • 0011
  • 0006 JK Junior
  • 0002 gilliss casing services
    0002 gilliss casing services
  • 9002 Pipeline Online 30 sec EBEX
    9002 Pipeline Online 30 sec EBEX
  • 9001

 

But wait, there’s even more. Heat pump systems take up more space than conventional furnaces and boilers. In many of Europe’s older neighbourhoods, houses share walls and their street frontage can be narrow. It can be difficult to find the space to attach an outside pump – sidewalks are only so wide. And, people are reluctant to block their only first floor windows with a heat pump.

The most amazing thing about the heat pump transition boondoggle is that environmental policy makers in Germany were prepared to outlaw the installation of new conventional heating systems by next year despite the laundry list of unsolved technical problems. No less problematic was their failure to consider the public pushback that would result when people discovered how disruptive and costly the transition would be.

Steam rises from the coal-fired power plant with wind turbines nearby in Niederaussem, Germany, as the sun rises on Nov. 2, 2022.  (AP Photo/Michael Probst, File)

Germany shut down nuclear power

Germany’s Green Party politicians and environmental activists have turned counterproductive policy making into something of an art form. Their most infamous policy disaster was insisting on the closure of Germany’s nuclear power plants. The problem then as now was magical thinking. They fully expected that green renewable energy sources like windmills and solar would rapidly replace the missing electricity. Their mistake was confusing what they wanted to happen with what would be required to make it happen. Wishful thinking is not a plan. End result, several coal-fired power plants have been taken out of the mothballs, increasing the amount of greenhouse gases emitted in Germany.

One question that remains unanswered is Why do they do it? Are environmentally-friendly policy makers so caught up in the righteousness of the cause that well-intentioned exuberance trumps sober reflection? Do they assume that they have to set overly ambitious benchmarks and deadlines to make anything happen? Or is it something more menacing – the zealots, confident in their beliefs assume they have the right to jam whatever policies they come up down the throats of the rest of us?

One of my personal favourite answers to the “why” is that environmental zealots who wield policy making power lack real world practical experience. Making protest signs for the next anti-pipeline demonstration or chaining yourself to a tree doesn’t make one expert in the operation of industrial processes or modern economies. Whatever the reasons, hardcore environmentalists have only themselves to blame for the BANANA conditions that make launching many large development projects an exercise in futility, including their own green energy initiatives. They lack practical economic, technological and social awareness, but yet still possess the arrogance that comes with thinking they are the saviors of the planet. It’s a recipe for self-delusion.

 

 

  • 0067 PFM SaskWorks Payroll Investment Plan
    0067 PFM SaskWorks Payroll Investment Plan
  • 0066 WBPC Promo video 30 seconds
    0066 WBPC Promo video 30 seconds
  • 0065 Anova Resources field operator Oxbow
    0065 Anova Resources field operator Oxbow
  • 0064 Estevan OTS
    0064 Estevan OTS
  • 0063 Turnbull Excavating hiring crusher
    0063 Turnbull Excavating hiring crusher
  • 0062 TED_EPAC_Technology_30
    0062 TED_EPAC_Technology_30
  • 0061 SIMSA 2024 For Sask Buy Sask
    0061 SIMSA 2024 For Sask Buy Sask
  • 0060 Arizona Lithium Lease building
    0060 Arizona Lithium Lease building
  • 0059 Southeast College Heavy Equipment Operator
    0059 Southeast College Heavy Equipment Operator
  • 0058 Royal Helium Steveville opens anonymous rocket
    0058 Royal Helium Steveville opens anonymous rocket
  • 0055 Smart Power Be Smart with your Power office
    0055 Smart Power Be Smart with your Power office
  • 0053 Kingston Midstream Westspur Alameda Click Before You Dig large text
    0053 Kingston Midstream Westspur Alameda Click Before You Dig large text
  • 0052 Predator Inspections
    0052 Predator Inspections
  • 0051 JML Hiring Pumpjack assembly
    0051 JML Hiring Pumpjack assembly
  • 0049 Scotsburn Dental soft guitar
    0049 Scotsburn Dental soft guitar
  • 0046 City of Estevan This is Estevan
    0046 City of Estevan This is Estevan
  • 0041 DEEP Since 2018 now we are going to build
    0041 DEEP Since 2018 now we are going to build
  • 0032 IWS Summer hiring rock trailer music
  • 0022 Grimes winter hiring
  • 0021 OSY Rentals S8 Promo
  • 0018 IWS Hiring Royal Summer
  • 0015 Latus Viro
    0015 Latus Viro
  • 0013 Panther Drilling PO ad 03 top drive rigs
  • 0011
  • 0006 JK Junior
  • 0002 gilliss casing services
    0002 gilliss casing services
  • 9002 Pipeline Online 30 sec EBEX
    9002 Pipeline Online 30 sec EBEX
  • 9001

 

Beating 75 percent target for cutting oil and gas methane emissions is Canada’s next challenge: Minister Guilbeault, verbatim

Advertising

Sask Polytechnic to get new campus in Saskatoon

Nineteen years later, Manitoba’s Sinclair field is going strong