If you pay attention to the ceaseless bombardment of press releases and photo-ops, Net Zero Wizard Ben promises to deliver a Teesside nirvana of 20,000 high-wage, high-skill, manufacturing jobs on the biggest brownfield site in the UK. We’ll reclaim our rightful top spot as the world’s leading Infant Hercules, with world-beating carbon capture, hydrogen and fossil-fuel substitute products.
Nirvana is just over the horizon (it’s always just over the horizon) if only the leftists, naysayers, doubters, declinists and defeatists would stop talking Teesside down.
But when Wizard Ben says the equivalent of ‘Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain’ it really is time to pay attention to that man behind the curtain. And when we do, we realize that nirvana will never be reached, and that the Emerald City was always a fever dream.
How did we get here? – The bigger picture
From the mid 1950s onwards, scientists at oil majors such as Exxon started to realize the devastating effect that fossil-fuel burning was having on the climate. Executives at all large oil companies were alarmed at the impact on their profits should they start to scale back the burning, so they hid their own research, denied that it even existed, then started spending billions of dollars funding disinformation about it. So the biggest public relations scam ever perpetrated in western civilization started to develop, and this has continued to the present day. But their strategies have evolved into something more subtle and pervasive.
The strategy of the oil companies has been to create an elaborate ecosystem of energy “solutions” which gives the appearance of attempting to arrest climate change but which, in reality, allows them to continue their reckless behaviour more than ever. This has worked like a charm, and fossil-fuel extraction continues to reach record levels. The climate change “solutions” fall into three main categories: Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS), Hydrogen and Plant-Based Fuels.
CCS is the oldest and most widespread fossil-fuel disinformation fraud of them all. Oil industry pollyannas claim that we can continue digging, drilling and burning coal, oil and gas because once we’ve generated the energy, we can store the waste CO2 products in the ground. They’ve been at this a long time. The first CCS project was proposed in1938, but the first live CCS plant didn’t go live until 1972. Since then we’ve had 50 years of hype about CCS, and despite science indicating that it will may never be feasible, we’ve seen increasingly desperate and expensive projects that never go anywhere. Examples are here, here and here.
The scamsters want to convince us that hydrogen can replace natural gas as a fuel source. They sell this by talking about “green” hydrogen, produced from renewable sources, when in reality they intend to create an infrastructure based around “blue” hydrogen, which is produced by cracking natural gas. The lobbyists never mention that this process involves a huge energy loss, and that it would make much more sense to just burn the natural gas in power stations, just as we do now. But even “green” hydrogen doesn’t work. Again, it is far more economical to use renewable energy to generate electricity in power stations, then feed it directly into the grid or store it in batteries. When in doubt, you can sew further confusion by conflating green and blue hydrogen.
We can replace fossil fuel with plant-based fuel. Power stations can run on biomass, a waste product from agriculture. That is, until you run out of plant waste and start felling old growth and primary forests, just as Drax have done in British Columbia. You can make E10 bioethanol petrol substitute from plant waste too, then ensure that our petrol contains 10% of it. North East MPs Matt Vickers, Dehenna Davison and Jacob Young are big fans of E10, but are not so keen to mention that their British Bioethanol APPG is funded by the fossil-fuel industry. But car drivers can feel virtuous about using “green” fuel while worldwide oil consumption continues to soar to record levels. Everyone’s a winner. Or a loser, depending on your point of view.
Fossil fuel shills
To put your energy “solutions” into effect, you need to hire journalists and politicians to shill for your con. Money is no object when it comes to this – fossil-fuel lobbyists have almost limitless financial backing. A good person to install as such a shill would be a powerful UK politician with extensive business links in oil sheikhdoms such as Qatar and the United Arab Emirates. I’m talking about Ben Houchen, of course. Ben’s Dubai-based business associate, oil and gas tycoon Richard Upshall would have the financial heft to fund a bid for metro mayor of the Tees Valley. Which he duly did
So, with the aid of the best-resourced local political campaigns ever seen in the UK, Ben Houchen became Tees Valley Mayor in 2017. To the west of the Emerald City would be a glittering, revamped Teesside Airport . To the east, a shiny new metropolis on the site of the largest brownfield site in Europe, Teesside Freeport. Ben would spend the next six years feeding the population with the fantasies of the fossil-fuel flim-flam men. Carbon Capture, Hydrogen, Biomass, Bioethanol, Sustainable Aviation Fuel. None of these projects will ever come to pass without a huge central government cash injection, followed by eye-watering ongoing levels of subsidy.
But we’ve been here before. Teesside is already littered with monuments to the hubris of hucksters who promising the earth. The EfW and Biomass plants at Port Clarence, Seal Sands and Teesport. £1.6 billion was spaffed away between these three projects alone, when we could have replaced North Tees Hospital, built a decent transport system or even fed our kids during the school holidays. Air Products booked a $1 billion write-off on their Seal Sands Biomass expenditure.
The Wizard is at it again this week. Take a peek behind the curtain before it’s too late, folks.