President Donald Trump withdrew the United States from the Paris Climate Agreement on June 1, 2017, and exactly a year later, also directed his administration to take steps that would prevent the closure of coal and nuclear power plants in the country. Meanwhile, the production of U.S. shale is at record highs (the price of gasoline in the domestic market is also at its highest in several years) and crude oil production heavyweights, like Russia and the Saudi Arabia-led Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), are also mulling increasing their output. Despite the virtual stranglehold on global production of crude oil by OPEC and Russia, and the pursuit of environmentally-unfriendly policies by the Trump administration, a new study found there is an economic "carbon bubble" forming, one that could lead to the sudden loss of up to $4 trillion in the global economy by 2035, mostly accounted for by "stranded" fossil fuel stockpiles. Economists and policy experts from Cambridge and the Open universities in the United Kingdom, Radboud University in the Netherlands, Macau University, and Cambridge Econometrics ran detailed simulations that showed technological changes in the energy and transport industries would lead to a significant decline in the global demand for fossil fuels in the coming years. This change in the near future would occur even if major nations did not adopt climate-friendly energy policies, leading to a slump in fossil fuel prices and stocks of associated companies.
Global energy demand and related carbon emissions both rose again in 2018, according to new figures out this week. This comes as no surprise. The analysis from the International Energy Agency is in line with other preliminary reports from other organizations. But it raises an awkward question: if renewables are growing and the prices of solar, wind, and batteries are falling, why is the world's climate pollution still going up? The first answer is the growing global economy, which pushed energy demand up by 2.3% last year, the IEA says.
New support for fracking to extract shale and coal seam gas is the most striking pledge from the Conservatives, with the easing of planning rules, a new dedicated regulator and more of any future tax revenues going directly to communities hosting shale gas sites. Wind power remains ruled out in England, but offshore wind farms are supported. The energy efficiency of all fuel-poor homes would be upgraded to meet energy performance certificate (EPC) band C criteria by 2030. There is no environment section in the manifesto and the UK's air pollution crisis gets a single sentence: "We will take action against poor air quality in urban areas."
Climate campaigners are up in arms today after the UK chancellor of the exchequer, George Osborne, offered new tax breaks to the North Sea oil and gas industry. Presenting his first budget since last December's UN Paris climate agreement, Osborne said the petroleum revenue tax on the industry's profits, a tax that was cut from 50 to 35 per cent last year, is now "effectively abolished". The decision is a part of a major overhaul of the tax regime for North Sea hydrocarbon reserves. He said the cut was needed because of low global oil prices. The new tax breaks have been welcomed by the industry.
An academic who is a vocal critic of the price of renewable power is the government's preferred choice to head a review of the financial cost of energy in the UK. Dieter Helm, an economist at the University of Oxford, has been chosen by the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) to carry out the review, the Guardian has learned. The Conservative manifesto promised that the resulting report would be the first step towards "competitive and affordable energy costs". Theresa May is among those in the government taking an interest in the cost-of-energy review, which will examine how power prices can be kept down while meeting the UK's carbon targets and keeping the lights on. But the choice of Helm, author of a new book on the slow demise of oil companies in the face of energy trends, will be controversial in some quarters because of his criticism of wind and solar power.