Tonight: Climate Zombie Bingo

Posted by Graham Thompson — 9 February 2012 at 6:18pm - Comments
All rights reserved. Credit: Greenpeace

Since Lord Lawson’s climate denial group the Global Warming Policy Foundation gave up on disputing climate science and moved on to disputing climate economics, a whole new army of zombie arguments have started lurching their way across the internet in search of mainstream media exposure and brains to consume. We're worried an entire legion of the undead might appear in ‘Tonight: The Cost of Going Green’ on ITV at 7.30pm.

But just because these arguments have been shot down so repeatedly you could strain your greens through them, it doesn’t mean that this programme can’t provide top-quality entertainment. To aid your appreciation and enjoyment, Greenpeace have produced this webpage as a Zombie Bingo card with our predictions for widely and repeatedly discredited arguments and statistics that we think will appear in the show.

The Reality

The overwhelming reason for last year’s round of price hikes was the spike in global gas prices. A recent Ofgem briefing entitled "Why are energy prices rising?” outlined how "higher gas prices have been the main driver of increasing energy bills over the last eight years”. Ofgem analysis shows that as the average bill rose, the proportion of the bill consumers paid in 'environmental and social supplier obligations' (what zombies call 'green taxes')  hasn't kept pace, falling to 6% of an average dual fuel bill from Ofgem's March 2011 assessment.

In terms of future impacts, the independent Committee on Climate Change estimates that replacing generating capacity that is due to close in the next eight years with low carbon forms of generation (including renewables) would add a further £110 to annual energy bills by 2020. By comparison, predicted increases in gas prices could increase bills by £175. If much more robust efforts are taken to improve home energy efficiency, by 2020 the average annual household energy bill could be around £1,085 per household - a £260 saving compared to the average bill in December 2011.

Play along at home

All you have to do is print out this page as your Zombie Bingo card, on recycled paper, and then tick off each zombie statistic, report or argument as it shambles onto the screen. The prize for spotting all of the zombies is the chance to impress whoever you’re sharing a sofa with a devastating display of your superior knowledge of climate economics. If that isn’t enough to motivate you to watch, then perhaps the added incentive of protecting your brain from being eaten by climate zombies will.

The Zombies:

KPMG’s report – Thinking about the Affordable

More of a ghost than a zombie, but still clearly undead. Accountancy firm KPMG claimed to have produced a report last year which allegedly showed that the UK could save £34 billion by ditching our commitment to renewables and going for gas and nuclear instead. The report’s methodology was criticised for fixating on capital costs, excluding other costs such as fuel and waste, and for a string of errors including claiming that a whole fleet of new nuclear power stations could be built before 2020, when we’d be lucky to get more than one online in that time. They also claimed that wind turbines are inactive for two thirds of the time, when the real figure is only 15-20%. Panorama were impressed enough by KPMG’s press release to base a whole programme on their findings, despite the rather significant detail that KPMG have not released the report and announced this week that they would never release it. Has it been finally sent to its grave, or can we expect to see it emerge blinking and groaning from its tomb this evening?

Policy Exchange report – The Full Cost to Households of Renewable Energy Policies

Described by the government as 'flawed', 'not credible' and 'wrong', this report from conservative think tank Policy Exchange claims that renewable energy policies will cost households over £400 a year by 2020. Flaws in the PX study include their description of various estimated costs (estimated by PX without any discernible methodology) distributed through the economy without any recognition that businesses may respond to higher prices by increasing energy efficiency; an assumption that all of the government's efforts to insulate homes, increase energy efficiency and reduce demand will come to nothing; ignoring recent reductions in subsidies; and taking deep-water off-shore wind turbine installation costs as the average. Most damningly, Policy Exchange argue for the quick fix and against the investment in new clean energy technology that is needed to solve the problems longer term. Whether this would lead to more nukes is highly debatable, but they’re quite correct in thinking it would lead to more gas fired power stations. These are relatively cheap to build but then expensive to run. It was the rising international gas prices, that have been the main cause of recent rises in energy bills. Too much new gas on the electricity system will stop us meeting the target of emissions free electricity by 2030..

Civitas report – Electricity Costs: the folly of wind-power

According to trade association RenewableUK, the author of this report based her findings on the work of an anti-wind farm campaigner who overestimates the need for back-up capacity by a factor of six and ignores the research showing that the cost of wind power will come down as the technology develops.

Taxpayers' Alliance - Let Them Eat Carbon

Self-anointed taxpayer protector Matthew Sinclair penned this diatribe against carbon reduction policy.  He claims there is a  green tax 'con' that is costing families £500 a year, but reaches this figure using an accounting methodology that has been abandoned by the government as unreliable, and assumptions about the potential costs of climate change which are optimistic to say the least.  As with Policy Exchange (below), the overarching aim behind the massaged figures is to push for deregulation, leaving it to the markets to decide what to do, which is pretty much what got us into this mess in the first place. Zombie economics at its blood-curdling best. 

Global Warming Policy Foundation – the £200 green tax

The Carbon Brief have done sterling work trying to kill this particular ravening zombie. No, as it turns out, you are not paying an extra £200 a year in green taxes. Or £300. We’ll let the Carbon Brief describe the full horror they experienced - but do take care, this must be the all-time undefeated heavyweight champion of the zombie world. If you see this statistic anywhere, just run.

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