Scotland’s own wandering albatross: Sturgeon on world tour again

Image: Wikimedia Commons

One of the most far ranging birds. Some individual wandering albatrosses are known to circumnavigate the Southern Ocean three times … [They] have a large range of displays from screams and whistles to grunts and bill clapping …The metaphor of “an albatross around his neck” … indicates an unwanted burden causing anxiety or hindrance.

The wandering albatross, Wikipedia

This week Nicola Sturgeon embarks on a five day visit to the USA. No Thanks! is reminded of the  albatross. Is there no end to this woman’s wandering around the globe? She’s done Beijing, Reykjavik, Gibraltar (a place desperate to remain British) and sundry places in between including of course Brussels. And Brussels. And Brussels …. All within a constitutional settlement that reserves external affairs to the United Kingdom parliament.

She gets away with it, of course, because each visit is dressed up to have a tangential link to matters that are devolved – trade and investment, the environment, and so on.

In the case of this week’s visit to the States that includes, depending on who you believe, meeting Governor Jerry Brown of California to discuss climate change (BBC) or to sign an agreement with him on the subject (Herald).

I’m not sure what Ms Sturgeon and Governor Brown have in common. Neither is happy with the national government they’ve been landed with through a democratic vote. But as far as anyone knows Jerry Brown’s overwhelming political aim isn’t for California to secede from the United States. And his state may be suffering from climate change exacerbated by human activity – its perennial drought – but we, on the other hand, have no lack of water.

Still, it’ll look good for the nationalists: oor (well, their) Nicola on a world stage doing … important stuff.

Except that before he grasps the hand of sustainable friendship from across the ocean, perhaps Governor Brown should have his environmental advisers check out the record on sustainability of the SNP Scottish government. Like much else, it’s big on words, small on achievement.

Take, for example, their current consultation paper on a Scottish Energy Strategy: The future of energy in Scotland. It’s a long (75 pages) and sometimes quite complex technical read but has been critiqued in an article entitled New Renewable Energy Targets for Scotland by the excellent Energy Matters website. At this point I have to insert both a suggestion and a disclaimer. The suggestion is that you read the Energy Matters article in full. The disclaimer is that, as you will realise if you dip into it, Energy Matters is a serious technical endeavour that began with the author Euan Mearns’ discovery of the idea of peak oil. He doesn’t do polemics and my use of his conclusions here is my responsibility.

Having said that, his judgement on the SNP’s proposed energy strategy is, in my view, devastating. First, he explains that ‘ The new policy is to produce the equivalent of 50% of all energy consumed from renewable sources by 2030.’ He goes on to dissect the government’s proposed actions forensically:

  • I suspect we will find ourselves leading a group of 1 country that may quickly go to the wall should these proposals be implemented
  • [The consultation] is drenched in the language of fake Green science
  • Scotland aims to decarbonise its energy sector without using nuclear power, the one technology proven to deliver the stated goals of reliable, affordable and low C [carbon emission] electricity … Scotland therefore will find itself in the same absurd situation as Germany where expanding renewables cannot compensate for lost nuclear capacity and CO2 emissions rise
  • Aiming to replace methane as the main source of heating with hydrogen derived from methane, produced using steam reformation, and combined with carbon capture and storage (CCS), strikes me as totally insane. Amongst other things, I can’t work out why methane + CCS should be considered renewable [I told you his analysis was technical]
  • In general terms, as renewables penetration rises so do prices and our energy use goes down. This is energy poverty manufactured in Holyrood
  • The success of the current policy with Scotland on track to produce 100% equivalent of supply [by renewables] by 2020 … is made possible by paying wind producers to not produce (constraint payments) and by Scotland being able to dump surplus power on England via the expanding array of inter connectors
  • [On proposals to use Solar Photovoltaic (Solar PV)] Suggesting that Scotland has favourable solar radiation and that we can store wind and solar power locally is pure Green hogwash fantasy
  • The Scottish government’s aim of providing secure and cheap electricity using renewables is simply a contradiction and denial of reality
  • [The government] propose to continue to use natural gas, converted to hydrogen, in future and to make believe that this is renewable energy. Calculating the cost of this folly is currently high on my list of priorities.

Well, I wish Mr Mearns luck. I hope he’s submitted his conclusions to the government’s consultation exercise. I hope they take account of them, though I’m sceptical to say the least. And I hope the Scottish Greens will suspend their infatuation with separation and wake up to provide some opposition on environmental matters.

Meantime, the albatross is still wandering. Lord knows where it’s heading next. Maybe the UK government should clip its wings and remind it that matters domestic back at the nest are in a bit of a mess and need sorting.

In acknowledgement of the extent to which I have used his conclusions here, I am about to make a modest donation to the Energy Matters website.

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