Is it really about emission reduction?

Previous post was about the reactions that condemned the news story about the CPB (Central Planning Bureau) statement claiming that the three new wind farms wouldn’t have an effect in reducing emissions. It is no different for the RTL news story: Wind energy is not the problem, emission trade is (Dutch), but it gave some new insight into the matter. The author, Henri Bontenbal, is a independent advisor on energy and sustainability. Just as the other articles that criticized the CPB statement, Bontenbal says that the CPB statement is simplistic.

He starts saying that the renewable energy sources (like wind, solar, biomass) aren’t able to compete with fossil fuels and therefor are in need of subsidies. Nothing new, nothing controversial. This is known for a long time already. Then he continues with the statement that this competition isn’t fair. Fossil fuel plants cause damage to the environment (like health damages and, ahem, climate change) and this “cost” is not yet calculated in the fossil fuel price. Therefor he finds it “not unreasonable” to subsidize renewable energy sources.

Sure, if he can prove those health damages and climate change because of these emissions. As far as my experience goes there are dramatic improvements in lowering pollution, at least in my country. I can see no reason why that wouldn’t be the case in The Netherlands. Air and water quality improved considerably since several decades. My guess is that the author confuses CO2 emissions with “pollution”.

Follows something really strange. According to Bontenbal the reasoning of the CPB that there will be only pain and no gain is not only the issue with wind energy, but also for solar, biomass, etcetera. True, but that is not really an argument I think.

Then he says that the problem is not wind energy, but the ETS and therefor why didn’t the CPB aimed at the ETS in stead of at wind energy? As far as I know the CPB didn’t give the advice not to do the investment. Their advice was to wait doing the investment until the situation was more favorable. Which makes perfectly sense if one looks at the result they want to achieve.

Back to the article. According to Bontenbal the reasoning of Minister Kamp is that we need to continue with unprofitable renewable energy sources because otherwise we will find ourself in a lock-in situation in which we have to continue with fossil fuel plants and not enough renewable energy plants, which would be catastrophic for our climate… So if the price of “pollution” is high enough, there would be no need to subsidize renewable energy. True enough, but it will also have other effects, probably not anticipated.

He also talked about politicians who are not wanting to change the ETS system, even want to increase the number of free emission rights (!) and states that there is political unwillingness to reform the ETS. Those who are in favor are voted away. Wow, but this is in stark contradiction with the optimism of Minister Kamp that is build on exactly that, the change of the ETS… That reform could take much longer than expected, if at all.

Concluding was the reaction of the Minister that the CPB statement was “an unfortunate misunderstanding”. This might be true or not, but the fact remains that there is a huge willingness of the government to invest heavily in project which is known to have no effect. So his arguments of fighting environmental damage and climate change become rather meaningless. The fact that the Minister want to go on, even knowing that those wind farms will not decrease emissions, let me suspect that something else than emission reduction is the goal…

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