Talk about the odd couple.
On the face of it, Britain’s prime minister Rishi Sunak and U.S. president would seem to have little in common. The former is a right-of-center politician with an eye on free markets, while the latter is a left-of-center leader.
Yet, recent news shows they have at least one thing in common. They are both presiding over their national energy policies, which are without doubt self-contradictory and inconsistent.
Let’s start with Biden.
Long-time readers will already know that one of the U.S. president’s early efforts when he came to office was to ban the sale of new Federal land drilling leases to energy companies. It was sure to make oil supply in the U.S. lower than it would otherwise have been and, therefore gasoline prices higher than they could have been. Eventually, a court overturned his edict.
Fast forward a few months, and the administration complained that energy companies were “unAmerican” because of the high price of oil partly caused by Biden’s drilling Federal land ban.
However, the latest move takes the cake. The administration is now looking at a ban on gas cookers. It’s based on the idea that when natural gas is burned it creates pollutants that harm people. Its true those cookers do produce toxic gases.
If the cooker ban happens it will mean using electricity for cooking your morning fried eggs instead of gas. And that’s exactly where the inconsistency begins.
But here’s the rub. Switching to electricity could be even more toxic for the environment.
In the U.S. 38% of electricity power is generated using natural gas, and a further 22% is produced from coal. Burning coal is generally considered to be far more toxic than is burning gas.
However, switching to cooking with electricity will mean more natural gas and coal get burned than previously. The result of at least as much pollution as before and possibly more — doesn’t seem to worry the Biden administration. Yet it should.
If toxic pollution is bad, it’s bad. Getting rid of America’s gas cookers won’t help. It may increase airborne pollution. Getting rid of coal power generation, followed by natural gas, and then banning gas cookers may actually help the administration’s goals. Right now, it just looks like an expensive, incomprehensible, self-defeating distraction.
While Biden is doing a great of pursuing a weird energy policy, Sunak isn’t far behind.
Already, we know that Sunak reinstated a fracking ban in the UK and then cut a deal with Biden to import masses more natural gas from the U.S., much of which was extracted using fracking technology.
Fracking is tremendously unpopular in the U.K., usually o the grounds that it hurts the environment. By the same token, fracked natural gas in the U.S. must also be harmful to the environment. Again, its a backwards and inconsistent energy policy.
It gets worse. Sunak’s government also green-lighted the U.K.’s first new coal mine in decades. As already mentioned, coal is far more harmful than is natural gas, fracked or otherwise.
More recently, Sunak said he wanted to protect Scotland’s oil and gas industry, which the devolved Scottish government, led by Nicola Sturgeon, says it wants to phase out for environmental reasons.
Again, there’s some strange going on here with Sunak (also with Sturgeon by that’s another story). The prime minister wants Scotland’s fossil fuel industry to keep pumping oil and drilling for gas, which we have heard are environmentally harmful. At the same time he is concerned enough about the environment to ban fracking in England.
Sunak and Biden both seem to be running an ad hoc policy platter du jour. Which pretty much means, we’ll decide what we will whether or not it clashes with the previous decison.