Dieter Helm’s The Carbon Crunch: How We’re Getting Climate Change Wrong–and How to Fix It has the potential to be an influential energy policy book, not just for the UK but for the rest of Europe and the United States. Helm has been making the rounds to promote the book and recently gave a concise talk with a Q&A session to the Policy Exchange.
I tend to agree with his diagnosis of our current position, and with his primary prescriptions. We differ substantially, however, in our expectations for the energy system that will result if those prescriptions are implemented as described.
As indicated by the subtitle of his book, Helm believes that the world, especially Europe, has achieved very little in the twenty years since the Kyoto treaty was signed. He believes that there is little hope that the process set in motion by that treaty will result in anything more than the continued annual consumption of a lot of aviation fuel to move people to ineffective conferences that are primarily climate theater.
He believes it is time for a change in direction – what a sailor might call a tack, if you will forgive the pun on his name. Helm includes three main components in his prescription for a future energy system:
- Establish a meaningful price on carbon that includes embedded consumption in imported products, not just domestic production
- Provide ample electricity supply by auctioning long term capacity commitments
- Invest in research and development to find technological breakthroughs
Helm is pretty sure that natural gas will be the winner for the foreseeable future if his prescriptions are implemented; I am confident that nuclear energy will soon dominate under those conditions as long as atomic fission is not artificially constrained.
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