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Build Back Better?

August 29, 2020

By Paul Homewood

We keep being told we need to Build Back Better. But what does it actually mean?

As the above list of demands from the Wellbeing Economy Alliance suggests, it can mean a lot of different things to a lot of different people!

After World War II, of course, it was all very straightforward. Towns that had been bombed off the map needed rebuilding, so it made sense to build new houses to much better standards than before and modernise factories and infrastructure. The opportunity was also taken to improve public services, such as health and education.

But that is not the case today. We have an economic base which a year ago provided the goods and services the public wanted and by and large was perfectly viable. Whilst this has obviously been disrupted by COVID lockdowns, there is no reason why it cannot resume as normal when the current crisis is resolved, as long as funding is available to cover the temporary COVID related loss of income.

Ignoring the far left demands made by the likes of Wellbeing Economy, we are essentially left with what is often termed a “Green New Deal”. Surprisingly perhaps, the OECD has endorsed the concept:

For the economic recovery from the COVID-19 crisis to be durable and resilient, a return to ‘business as usual’ and environmentally destructive investment patterns and activities must be avoided. Unchecked, global environmental emergencies such as climate change and biodiversity loss could cause social and economic damages far larger than those caused by COVID-19. To avoid this, economic recovery packages should be designed to “build back better”. This means doing more than getting economies and livelihoods quickly back on their feet. Recovery policies also need to trigger investment and behavioural changes that will reduce the likelihood of future shocks and increase society’s resilience to them when they do occur. Central to this approach is a focus on well-being and inclusiveness. Other key dimensions for assessing whether recovery packages can “build back better” include alignment with long-term emission reduction goals, factoring in resilience to climate impacts, slowing biodiversity loss and increasing circularity of supply chains.

The danger, of course, is that their policies may actually prevent getting economies and livelihoods quickly back on their feet.

So what might we expect from such a Green Deal? The Committee on Climate Change (CCC) and National Infrastructure Commission (NIC) have made it pretty clear:

  • More wind and solar farms
  • Insulating homes
  • Ban petrol and diesel cars
  • Heat pumps and hydrogen for heating homes
  • Tree planting and peatland restoration
  • Encourage walking and cycling
  • More public transport

The problem is that all of this costs money, an awful lot. An average household, for instance, would have to spend upwards of £10,000 to install a heat pump, while hydrogen costs three times as much as natural gas to produce. On top of that, the CCC estimate that converting the nation’s appliances from gas to hydrogen could cost another £100bn.

Insulating homes might sound a fine idea, but the costs involved usually far outweigh any potential energy savings.

Electric cars are to be forced upon us, even though they are totally unfit for purpose for most drivers. Car manufacturers will have to spend tens of billions retooling, money which they have not got, while taxpayers will have to fund billions more on charging points.

And the electrification of transport and heating will necessitate the digging up and upgrading of the country’s electricity cables, which will be unable to cope with the increased demand.

The NIC have estimated that their plans to decarbonise the electricity grid will add £16bn a year to our bills by 2030. And according to the CCC, getting to Net Zero will cost £50bn a year by 2050.

Which all raises the question – where will this money come from? Far from helping with the recovery, it will end up being a massive drain on the economy.

It is claimed, of course, that a Green Deal will create hundreds of thousands of new jobs. But this is economic illiteracy, as subsidised green jobs simply destroy wealth creating jobs elsewhere in the economy.

In any event, these green jobs never seem to materialise. For instance, the Scottish Government’s Low Carbon Economic strategy (2010) promised 130,000 green jobs by now. but according to a study by the Scottish TUC last year, Broken Promises and Offshore Jobs, the actual number is 21,400, and falling. Their case study on the massive Moray offshore wind farm under construction shows just why the jobs have not appeared:

Moray East Windfarm

100 turbines off the coast of Caithness are being built by a consortium involving Portugal’s main energy firm EDPR, French utility Engie and Diamond Generating Europe, a subsidiary of Japanese firm Mitsubishi Corporation. The blades are being built by Danish company, MHI Vestas Offshore Wind – a joint venture between Vestas Wind Systems and Mitsubishi Heavy Industries. MHI Vestas have a plant in the Isle of Wight that employs 300 people. Under the previous ownership of Vestas the Isle of Wight plant was closed in 2009, leading to the loss 425 jobs (and a high profile 18 day blockade by workers and activists).
The wind turbine jackets are being handled by a ‘first tier’ Belgian procurement contractor called Deme. Deme awarded the contract for 45 jackets to Lamprell – a company in the United Arab Emirates. Lamprell made a $98m  loss on its contract for 60 jackets for Scottish Power Renewables, developer of the East Anglia One wind array, suggesting it does not have a great track record in wind turbine jackets.

In short most of the manufacturing work is offshored, and all revenues will be paid out to foreign companies. Scottish workers will largely be left with maintenance operations. This is a story seen over and over again across the UK.

Far from boosting the economy, this mad rush to decarbonise the economy will stop any recovery dead in its tracks.

  1. Ben Vorlich permalink
    August 29, 2020 6:16 pm

    Aren’t items 2 and 4 mutually exclusive?
    Aren’t items 2 and 5 mutually exclusive?
    Item 8 wouldn’t be Wellbeing Economy Alliance by any chance would it?

    Encourage walking and cycling? All electric vehicles and renewable energy will ensure that walking and cycling become the only way to get around. 19th century technology means 18th century transport.

    • Sobaken permalink
      August 29, 2020 10:56 pm

      More importantly, item 1 (to quote, “Prioritise long-term human wellbeing and ecological stability in all decision-making; degrow and divest from economic sectors that do not contribute to ecological and wellbeing goals”) is exclusive with everything else on their list (most of which is just more welfare). For instance, Item 4 asks for free housing, healthcare, utilities, and food, while item 5 asks for job guarantees for everyone. How is it going to be provided, if you have “degrown” your whole economy? Item 8 asks to reduce resource use, but how is it to be done if you are supposedly demanding higher standards of living, which naturally calls for more resources to be expended. Item 3 calls for using “green” energy and transport, as well “sustainable” agriculture, which would mean plummeting industrial and agricultural productivity, but somehow it is to lead to guaranteed prosperity for everyone. So from the first impression, it’s basically just another radical green malthusian organisation, covering behind a facade of caring for the wellbeing of humans.
      The only interesting thing in their list is probably item 10, the line “Introduce public and democratic control of money creation. Spend newly created money on investments that promote social and environmental goals” sounds quite similar to what the adepts of modern monetary theory such as AOC are preaching. Print the money uncontrollably and care about the consequences later. It seems this is becoming the key component of all these proposed “green new deals”. I would guess that’s how they plan to finance their ambitious prosperity goals, while at the same time pushing the economy into permanent lockdown. Just make fake money and pay it for real imports from countries where industry and agriculture still exist. And as for the job guarantees, with unlimited money you can invent an unlimited number of fake government jobs. Not gonna lie, I’d be quite curious to see how long this state of affairs could last, before the currency devalues so much that other countries would stop dealing with such a zombie economy.

    • Sobaken permalink
      August 29, 2020 11:19 pm

      And after reading this far-left baloney
      I can’t imagine that anyone would ever take this organization seriously

  2. Broadlands permalink
    August 29, 2020 6:47 pm

    “Whilst this has obviously been disrupted by COVID lockdowns, there is no reason why it cannot resume as normal when the current crisis is resolved, as long as funding is available to cover the temporary COVID related loss of income.”

    With respect to climate change, global warming AND the economic base…there is every reason why it cannot resume. The same social and economic disruption created by the lockdowns would happen, only worse if carbon fuel emissions were drastically cut back. Funding is not an answer to human misery created by the lack of energy to transport people and the goods and service they need. Somebody needs to get real, real quick.

  3. August 29, 2020 6:51 pm

    No wind produces no power, however many turbines there are.

  4. cajwbroomhill permalink
    August 29, 2020 7:02 pm

    Everything to do with “Green” energy generation is fraudulently, corruptly, indeed criminally as wasteful as it is ineffective.
    For the UK at least, it is a fatal own goal. Not merely unnecessary, it ought to be utterly ended.
    The only beneficiaries are those in receipt of the dirty money to pay for it.

    Politicians, elected to get the voters the best deal are, except in the many nations rightly ignoring the “Green Crap” as David Cameron called it, almost as guilty as are warmongers.

    Voting the “Green” supporting lot out would be the most merciful way to cut out the “Green Crap”. They deserve very much more severe punishment for their ignorant folly. They have lied to the voters, shown neither good judgement nor care for their nation.

    There are some in UK politics who recognise the truth about Greenery, a fraudulent campaign.

    These are the voters’ only hope.

  5. Barrie Emmett permalink
    August 29, 2020 7:04 pm

    I also read in today’s Times that a hundred MPs were demanding all new vehicles from 2030 must be electric, obviously haven’t read this report. Becoming totally sick of all this green rubbish and whining black people and I won’t start on about the Biased Broadcasting Emporium. Barrie

    Sent from my iPad


    • Harry Passfield permalink
      August 30, 2020 12:31 pm

      I followed one of the new VW ID 3 EVs the other day. Looked OK, but then I read the road test report on it and was not impressed, more-so that the price was around £35K on the road!!

      • Ben Vorlich permalink
        August 30, 2020 1:53 pm

        The TV advert for the Corsa E irritates me. Listen to the hype then read the performance numbers leaves you wondering if the advert is describing the right model. It’s only on close examination you see it is a “city car” a job it might just manage

  6. Penda100 permalink
    August 29, 2020 7:20 pm

    Does “Better Democracy” mean stopping the people electing the wrong politicians (Trump) and taking the wrong kind of decisions (Brexit)? Isn’t the Public Control of Money simply Marxism?

    • cajwbroomhill permalink
      August 29, 2020 7:33 pm

      Your own views as expressed here seem to me totalitarian rather than democratic.

      • Phoenix44 permalink
        August 30, 2020 8:26 am

        You don’t seem to understand what the words mean. Maybe one of those strange people who think fascism is racism too?

    • Sheri permalink
      August 30, 2020 3:03 am

      Uh, no, stopping people from electing the “wrong” person or making a “wrong” decision is pure dictatorship material. There is ZERO democracy. Public control of money? You mean minting one’s currency? All countries do that. Central banking? A lot of countries do that. Your point is completely lost.

    • Phoenix44 permalink
      August 30, 2020 8:24 am

      That’s what it means, yes.

  7. In the Real World permalink
    August 29, 2020 8:01 pm

    This is just an ongoing part of the Global world Governance plan .
    A little bit disrupted by the Pandemic , but they are still trying .

    Some of the heads of the IPCC admitted that the whole idea of the Global warming scam was nothing to do with climate , but to take control of everyones money so that they ,[ the chosen ones ] , could bring in a ” One World Government ” to run everything .

    • Sheri permalink
      August 30, 2020 3:07 am

      Actually, the pandemic seems to have reinforced the entire global governing plan. Virtually every country jumped headfirst onto concrete by locking down and destroying their economies and spreading panic. I can only see that this helped globalization tremendously–all leaders can be made to walk lockstep (other than Sweden, too small to matter).

  8. Tonyb permalink
    August 29, 2020 8:35 pm

    The heat pump demands are interesting. Most modern houses have far too small a garden to install a ground source heat pump.

    That leaves air source ones which to work anything like satisfactorily need to have a very well insulated and tightly sealed home. The last thing you want in a pandemic as the virus would merely circulate in the interior.

    even then the efficiency and heat gain is not great and unless the underfloor heating pipes are installed during construction of the house, the radiators will need to be resized

    • Mack permalink
      August 29, 2020 9:08 pm

      Indeed Tony, two hackneyed old phrases spring to mind in this context: ‘the law of unintended consequences’ and ‘you can’t fix stupid’. Alas, there appears to be no elected politicians in the U.K. who are currently prepared to take on board the issues Paul raises in this post and run with them. Only the reality of post Lockdown financial collapse in the West and a cooling AMO will possibly halt the current descent into the green apocalypse.

    • Harry Passfield permalink
      August 29, 2020 10:16 pm

      Tony, just suppose the residents of the satuarated South East- mainly London, decided to drill for Gaps. I wonder how many would hit a tube line or other strategic obstacle. This is cuckoo-land without the clouds to obscure vision!

      • Harry Passfieldg permalink
        August 29, 2020 10:18 pm

        ‘Gaps’ = GSHPs.

    • Nancy & John Hultquist permalink
      August 30, 2020 3:57 am

      Heat pumps are quite OK in many ways. (Ground-source are more troublesome). We have one in a house built with ducts – maybe what you are calling “under floor heating pipes”. The so called “heat pump” does both the heating and cooling; and sits outside. Inside is an air-handler (fan and filters). When quite cold outside ours switches to “resistance heating.” This uses more electricity than the regular compressor. In a warmer winter climate the resistance heating part might not be necessary.
      With winter cold, occasionally -20°F (about -30°C), one needs a backup emergency heat source. Ours is a state-of-art wood unit.
      Our heating & air condition system needed replaced about 15 years ago. We replaced with the heat pump, in an all electric house, existing duct work, and inexpensive electric power. There are no radiators with the duct-work system. We are fine with it.

      Between the lines: Older houses and apartments may be very poor candidates for heat pumps.

      • Gerry, England permalink
        August 30, 2020 12:27 pm

        The massive problem with heat pumps is that they run on electricity which is the more expensive of the two main energy sources in the UK. And electricity costs are being forced ever higher by global warming taxes and costs imposed by using windmills. Gas prices have actually been falling over the last year or so.

        Off grid properties of which there are many around me normally use oil for heating. When the price was over $100 a barrel the GSHP salesmen were out in force but the wise ones were those sticking with heating oil and finding costs dropping by over 50% as oppsoed to those fitting GSHPs and seeing their electricity bills soar.

    • Al Shelton permalink
      August 30, 2020 12:06 pm

      According to AGW theory, CO2 traps heat and re-radiates it back to Earth.
      If 0.04% can trap heat to heat the Earth then why not insulate your house with bags of 100% CO2? AND, replace the inert gas in your all-weather windows with 100% CO2?
      Your house would have so much re-radiated heat [according to AGW Alarmists] that all one would have to do is light a s=candle and your house would be warm the whole winter

  9. jack broughton permalink
    August 29, 2020 9:10 pm

    Our politicians keep claiming that the UK leads in green-technology. This is amazing as it is almost 100% export of jobs as Paul notes above. Certainly, all of the technology for our wind, solar and EfW come form overseas.

    What is even more horrific is that the UK has sold almost all of its gas and steam turbine businesses apart from Rolls Royce; then it is being pushed by Drax power to investing in the only gas turbine scheme that is looking likely, using an imported heavy duty gas turbine (the UK no longer makes these), while aero-derivative gas turbines are significantly more efficient in simple cycle mode and are designed for rapid loading. The UK seems to lack any self-protection for its technology and for long term national security.

    A rational energy policy would back-up about 20 GW of our power with OCGTs with coal- fired power stations kept available as security fall-backs as coal is our only significant stored energy. Trump recognised this years ago, but our lot believe that the unicorns and flying pigs will save us.

    • Graeme No.3 permalink
      August 29, 2020 10:34 pm

      given the high maintenance rate of OCGTs means it would take a much higher capacity than that to guarantee a stable grid. Rapid start-ups cause heat stresses etc.
      Better would be hydro, but that is limited, so the next “solution” to variable generation from wind must be diesel. These are more rugged and in dual fuel mode (start on diesel fuel then when hot switch to natural gas). As in South Australia, but those running the asylum here are putting their faith in batteries, synchronous condensers and interconnectors, none of which actually generate anything except debt.
      Our asylum managers are also against fracking and drilling for gas.

      • jack broughton permalink
        August 31, 2020 11:04 am

        My 20 GW was a first estimate based on backing-up the current 22 GW “unreliables” that the UK has installed. I must agree that aero-derivative engines have higher maintenance costs than heavy duty units, but they are ideal for short term and rapid start back-up. CCGT plant takes several hours to get to full load (i.e. design efficiency) and also incurs cyclic fatigue damage, a cost penalty which so far is not being allowed for in reducing asset value.

        Diesel generators are fine for local grids or domestic use, but cannot give the GW responses required for a national grid that OCGTs can. There was a concept called the tower of power many years ago in which a number of OCGTs were fed to a common stack to get the benefit of stack suction; but that was back when coal was king and was not economic.

        At least Australia still has coal and has not wantonly destroyed its coal fired plants like the UK has. The UK now has less than 30 % security of generation in the event of a war or similar: most of our energy comes through vulnerable pipes and cables under the North Sea – easy targets in terms of military or economic conflict!

  10. John189 permalink
    August 29, 2020 9:28 pm

    The seven Green Deal aims from the CCC and NIC (above) have been aired before and are so impractical as to border on the delusional.

    There may be some (unhealthy) homes built in recent years that are well insulated and tightly sealed but most of the housing in the British Isles needs to be able to breathe, especially in the damper climates of the north and west. Added to this, a vast swathe of the housing stock is 19th century or earlier and like the house I live in is not suitable for modern insulating solutions.

    In fact on a personal note I happily confess to being a fresh air fiend and detest closed-in air-conditioned spaces.

    As for cycling, this is the product of minds conditioned to flat parts of large lowland conurbations. Tell people – especially those of us over 50 years of age – in upland towns to cycle to work! For recreation cycling is fine, but for me a daily ascent of 175 metres in all weathers at the end of the working day would illustrate to perfection the term “pushbike”. And there will be millions far less fit than I.

    Plant broadleaved deciduous trees by all means, but the other CCC aims are impossible solutions to a non problem. Have they really nothing better to do?

  11. Pancho Plail permalink
    August 29, 2020 10:18 pm

    Building back somehow implies that infrastructure has been destroyed. Now I have heard a lot about how awful the virus is but I thought it only affected people not structures.

  12. Sobaken permalink
    August 29, 2020 10:26 pm

    Their “green” jobs plan is working, you are just looking in the wrong places for those jobs they are creating. I’d imagine the lithium and copper mining business in Chile is booming, and solar panel and battery factories in China are never out of work. Probably the same is true for all the steel and carbon fibre required to build wind turbines, biomass for biofuels and bioenergy plants, materials for insulation, and all the rest of it. It all seems like a clever scheme to use Western money to fund industrial development in non-Western countries, without actually labelling it as foreign aid or anything of that sort. Because out of the general public, no one in their right minds, however moral and virtuous they might be, would support throwing trillions of dollars at creating jobs in poorer countries. Even if it is actually done in the hopes that those nations’ newfound prosperity would lead to some favourable geopolitical consequences for the West, such as regime change, economical dependence, or merely regional stability and peace.

  13. I_am_not_a_robot permalink
    August 29, 2020 11:14 pm

    Wikipedia tells me the Wellbeing Economy belongs under the category of ‘happiness economics’ sounding suspiciously like the 1930s slogan in USSR ‘Life has become more joyful comrades!’.

    Marx himself supposedly remarked ‘historical entities [or movements] appear twice: first as tragedy, then as farce’.

  14. markl permalink
    August 30, 2020 12:08 am

    After the Russian revolution the Marxists went underground and stealthily started working their ideology from the bottom up and the top down to trap the middle class (read And Not A Shot Was Fired). They have been somewhat successful up until now and have dropped all pretenses of being in the shadows by openly demanding Socialism. The USA is their current and most prized target. AGW is their Trojan horse.

  15. Chris G. Robinson permalink
    August 30, 2020 4:45 am

    I have only just come across this travesty of a program from the BBC, one of a series. I assume you have seen it too Paul and quite possibly have commented on it. I managed about five minutes before giving up on it. 97% of climate scientists etc…

  16. Phoenix44 permalink
    August 30, 2020 8:19 am

    Just garbage cliches and platitudes. What’s “socially just”? Meaningless. Better democracy almost certainly means more limited democracy as people keep voting for the “wrong” things. Co-operation is the stupidity of people who don’t understand how free markets are the ultimate in co-operation. Wellbeing economic organisation just means stopping measuring GDP (because Left wing economies are rubbish at increasing it.

    Wishy-washy Leftie rubbish.

  17. Gerry, England permalink
    August 30, 2020 12:39 pm

    Only last night I was watching an episode of War Factories on the Baku oilfields. The brothers of Alfred Nobel were involved in making Baku the World’s oil capital prior to World War 1. But then along came the Russian Revolution and the ‘workers’ paradise’ where all the knowledgeable people were chased out and everything made free. Oil production collapsed to 13% of pre-revolution levels and the Soviet Union was going bankrupt. As one of the commentators pointed out that with no system to better yourself, to earn more and to improve nobody bothered. Lenin then had to go to the western oil companies such as Shell, Standard to come and run the oilfields. And yet there are still stupid people who think communism can work despite decades of evidence to the contrary.

  18. Gamecock permalink
    August 30, 2020 6:54 pm

    Green recovery. Pick one.

  19. August 31, 2020 8:21 am

    Or maybe don’t build back at all. The covid offers a splendid opportunity to solve the climate crisis.

    • cajwbroomhill permalink
      August 31, 2020 8:30 am

      The “climate crisis”, lacking any definition,, is a politician’s and rabble rouser’s catch phrase.
      Your comment sounds tongue-in-cheek.

  20. August 31, 2020 9:32 am

    The definition of the climate crisis is in terms of the horrific climate impacts found in climate science.

    • cajwbroomhill permalink
      August 31, 2020 9:59 am

      Are these incidents more severe than when compared with historical records over, say, the past two centuries ?
      These are very often or always unhelpful to the climate alarmists’ claims of a crisis.
      Please detail your statistically evaluated repudiations of these contradictory claims.

      If yet more money were released and invested how, in practice, could the global climate be influenced for the better, using proven means supported by empirical evidence?

      • August 31, 2020 10:15 am

        That a climate crisis needs to be worse than climate extremes in the paleo record for the past two centuries before we take protective action seems an arbitrary constraint.

  21. August 31, 2020 2:09 pm

    Wellbeing that undefined term that they tried to use with Scotland’s named person scheme.
    Meanwhile sky news UK (but not Australia) that brought us a year of climate fear porn is at it again
    Climate After COVID: How you can take part in our special programme on the environment and the virus
    Of course climate change is to blame for covid-19
    My cat has fleas I think climate change is the reason
    It’s all part of the great Green reset
    But it’s ok they have our best interests at heart

  22. yonason permalink
    August 31, 2020 11:26 pm

    That list of goals looks like bureaucratic drone-speak to me, feebly disguised to appear novel, creative, important, efficient and constructive; but are transparently redundant, banal, trivial, wasteful and destructive.

    Just consider that first item, “New goals – socially just and ecologically safe.”

    Humanity has, from earliest recorded history, realized the importance of justice to social cohesion. Adding the adjective “social” to “justice” tells you only that the writer, who wants to guide us into the future, is fond of excess verbiage, and knows nothing of the past or present.

    And what society deliberately destroys it’s environment? It’s not something that we have to obsess over, but something that comes naturally to every even remotely civilized society.

    Neither justice, nor maintaining our environment are things that we neglect, except perhaps when unable to afford them, as for example if we were to be dominated by idiots who haven’t a clue how anything works.

    We don’t need more unnecessary chores. We need fewer idiots.

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