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DECC doesn't know the cost of carbon

A clearer admission that that DECC doesn't know its derriere from its demand side balancing reserve is hard to imagine. Junior minister Amber Rudd has ducked a simple request from Graham Stringer MP for the value of the cost of carbon emissions that it uses in formulating policy.

Graham Stringer: To ask the Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change, what the social cost per tonne of emitted carbon his Department uses to judge the cost benefit of energy policies.

Amber Rudd (The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State) The Department for Energy and Climate Change has indicated that it will not be possible to answer this question within the usual time period. An answer is being prepared and will be provided as soon as it is available.

The cost of carbon emissions is supposed to be the figure by which everything that happens within DECC is judged. That they don't even know it shows clearly that the department is completely rudderless.

But we knew that.

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Reader Comments (43)

Typo: Graham Sringer
[Corrected- thanks. TM]

Nov 6, 2014 at 10:49 AM | Unregistered Commenternit picker

"......uses to judge the cost benefit of energy policies."

Does anyone fondly imagine that such judgements are ever made?

Nov 6, 2014 at 11:20 AM | Unregistered CommenterJack Savage

It's long been known that they don't know their AR5 from their elbow.

Nov 6, 2014 at 11:31 AM | Unregistered CommenterBloke down the pub

So they don't care about whether the taxpayers money is spent efficiently ?
Ongoing cost/benefit analysis is the standard quality control so they should have one to hand.
Good on Graham Stringer for holding them to account
They say "Answer Is being prepared" Interesting to see what will they come up with ? If it is manufactured it should be challenged ..If it's a long worded Sir Humphrey fudge rather than a straight answer, that will prove (again) that you can't trust the Conservatives on energy.

Nov 6, 2014 at 11:49 AM | Registered Commenterstewgreen

"Typo: Graham Sringer"

I kind of think of him more as "Graham stinger". Which if it isn't, ought to be a guided missile which once launched just keeps tracking the victim relentless until it strikes home.

Nov 6, 2014 at 11:51 AM | Registered CommenterMikeHaseler

Bloke down the pub: Trust you to strike a bum note :)

Mike: I've often transformed GS's name like that in my own mind and typos. Hot air-seeking missile?

Nov 6, 2014 at 11:56 AM | Registered CommenterRichard Drake

The price of carbon is whatever the climate hustlers tell us it is.

Nov 6, 2014 at 12:19 PM | Unregistered Commenterhunter

Ed Davey's going to be on telly tonight
: Tonight: Fuel poverty and its effect on our health. ITV @7.30pm FB
Seems narrative will be "Ohh it's those evil big energy companies" conspiracy theory, cos that's a lot easier than getting into the nitty gritty maths of extra costs introduced into the system by Davey's lunatic policies subsidies, renewables inefficiencies, uncertainty etc. etc.

Nov 6, 2014 at 12:20 PM | Registered Commenterstewgreen

What a tangled web we weave
Once we have started to deceive.
But oh, how we improve our style
Once we have practiced for awhile.

H/t Emily Preyer

Nov 6, 2014 at 12:31 PM | Unregistered Commenterkim

The EU doesn't know either:

If you read Attachment 3 of the complaint, you will see that it got so bad that when they were required by law to assess that cost, such as in the original renewable Directive 2001/77/EC, they simply decided not to write the report.

Nov 6, 2014 at 12:37 PM | Unregistered CommenterPat Swords

Crazy Davey has just made his annual statement to parliament (paraphrase) "Your bills have all gone down by £90, despite the mess that the last Labour gov left ..we're all fine ..£44bn spent on renewables lights not going to go out ..we're world leaders !" ..I expect Bish will do a post on it

Meanwhile Dieter Helm was on Radio 4 You and Yours 12:38 for second day in a row (as I detailed)
today he said something sensible "Running the electricity system so close to the capacity is bound to push prices up"

Nov 6, 2014 at 12:51 PM | Registered Commenterstewgreen

The DECC has a web page for Carbon Valuation

The DECC seems to have replaced the Social Cost of Carbon (measured in £t/CO2) with the "Shadow price of carbon" in Dec 2007. This in turn was superceded by a "Revised Approach" in 2009, where sometimes they use a traded price of carbon. It would seem that this is the traded price in a perfectly competitive global market for emissions trading. These modelled prices the DECC then project decades ahead. Read for yourselves the justification, if you have a month or two to spare.

Nov 6, 2014 at 12:51 PM | Unregistered CommenterKevin Marshall

It's not DECC that are totally ignorant on the costs of this Government's green/energy policies. Danny Alexander (Treasury) has just been interviewed on the BBC on fuel prices. He took issue with the presenter's claim that taxes made up 80% of the price. When asked for the actual figure, all he could manage was; "oh, around 60 to 70%".

Nov 6, 2014 at 12:52 PM | Registered CommenterSalopian

And there I was thinking the fruitcakes were firmly at the helm and had decisively set course for the Stone Age quite some time back.

Nov 6, 2014 at 12:55 PM | Unregistered CommenterMartin Reed

He should have asked for the figure they used last week - surely it's written on a post-it somewhere.

Nov 6, 2014 at 1:01 PM | Unregistered Commenterjaffa

"the presenter's claim that taxes made up 80% of the price"

It is 80p, not 80%, but would a Beeboid know the difference..?

Nov 6, 2014 at 1:07 PM | Registered Commenterjamesp

The answer will indubitably be a method statement rather than a number.

The value will vary on context and be conditional, dependent on 'scenarios' and 'projections', and thus the delay in providing an answer will be quite justified.

For if a Minister asked the question, the answer would come, "What do you want it to be?"

Nov 6, 2014 at 1:23 PM | Unregistered CommenterMCourtney

On today's Daily Politics, Ed Davey said that the cost for all the this winter contigency plans will only be ~£1 on people's bills.

He also said that the cost of offshore wind power generation was still falling although Andrew Neil disputed that. Ed Davey is still expecting the huge £155/MWhr for offshore wind generation to be cheaper than fossil fuel in the future.

When is DECC ever wrong?

Nov 6, 2014 at 1:26 PM | Unregistered CommenterCharmingQuark

I'm not surprised they can't come up with a cost for carbon (dioxide) emissions into the atmosphere. Carbon dioxide doesn't have a social cost because it is a benefit, it feeds plants and every year it increases it inevitably augments crop yields worldwide while resulting in them becoming ever more tolerant of arid climes. No evidence exists of global temperatures increasing with CO2 but if such existed it would add to the list of benefits CO2 provides - humanity has always profited overwhelmingly in warmer periods and not in the least because far more die prematurely in cold than in hot weather. Of course CO2 is an entirely natural component of the atmosphere which only fools and alarmists have the temerity to describe as a pollutant. Pollution from burning fossil fuels is a separate issue and needs to be dealt with as such. Indeed the obsession with smearing CO2 lets real polluters off the hook such as giant container ships burning dirty bunker fuel. It has been estimated that just sixteen such vessels produce more sulphurous oxides pollution than all the world's cars and there are more than 100,000 ships of all sizes currently at sea. Yet it is car manufacturers who are targeted with ludicrously impractical emissions regulations at great cost to the public while the real polluters are studiously ignored.

The only social cost of CO2 is the price we pay in being forced to suck up to the alarmist establishment's fantasies, a cost recently put at $1.7 trillion so far, and growing inexorably. Every last cent wasted.

Nov 6, 2014 at 1:43 PM | Unregistered CommenterMartin Reed

Amber Rudd - sounds like a species of ornamental fish, but probably not as intelligent.

Nov 6, 2014 at 2:36 PM | Registered CommenterSalopian

Not only is DECC like a rudderless ship, but it is skippered by complete moron.

Nov 6, 2014 at 3:46 PM | Unregistered CommenterPeter Stroud

Perhaps Stringer could ask for their roadmap of capacity provision, type, location and consequent carbon emissions reduction? After all, a department of this calibre must have such a plan?

Mustn't it?

Nov 6, 2014 at 4:03 PM | Unregistered CommenterCapell

The social cost of carbon used for policy purposes was around £23 per tonne of carbon about 5 years ago, when I used to be heavily involved in these matters. An upper value on the range was £70 per tonne (assuming alarmists worst fears are correct) but using such a high figure obviously greatly alters investment / policy decisions.

Obviously the social cost of carbon is currently undergoing some revision. I'm sure Richard Tol is more on top of current thinking and policy regarding this matter than I am these days.

Nov 6, 2014 at 4:05 PM | Unregistered CommenterAbc

Owen Patterson asks THE QUESTION:
Paterson is facing up to the tough issue of further spending cuts

"Mr Paterson continued:

One of the most striking features I noticed while attending Cabinet, is that there are too many chairs at the table. We shouldn’t shy away from getting rid of departments. It is easy for Government Departments to lose focus of their central mission and to become obese. We must sharpen up Departments and ensure they are effective. Can we afford BIS, DECC, DCMS or DfID as independent Departments with all the associated costs?"

Yes, there it is! "Can we afford ... DECC ..."?

With one bound he was free, from the make believe world of the 2008 CCA and Coalition Government.

What will be his strategy, and in whose company will he travel?

Nov 6, 2014 at 4:44 PM | Registered CommenterRobert Christopher

Green, Amber, Rudd?

Nov 6, 2014 at 4:53 PM | Unregistered CommenterOld grumpy

Grumpy, get your coat.

Nov 6, 2014 at 5:17 PM | Unregistered CommenterTim Bromige

+1 for sticking to using "carbon dioxide" rather than "carbon". Carbon is NOT carbon dioxide, like iron is not rust.

An emitted tonne of carbon 12 inc. 2x oxygen 16 is a totally different quantity to a tonne of emitted carbon 12 not inc. 2x oxygen 16.

Nov 6, 2014 at 6:39 PM | Unregistered Commenternot banned yet

Amber's department is completely rudderless.

I see what you did there.

Nov 6, 2014 at 6:58 PM | Unregistered CommenterJordan

DECC is ruddy useless...

Nov 6, 2014 at 7:17 PM | Unregistered CommenterIt doesn't add up...


Davey conveniently forgot that he has written rising prices into law: the £155/MWh is in 2012 money, and indexed by CPI. Then again, Davey is distinctly a StrangeQuark.

Nov 6, 2014 at 7:22 PM | Unregistered CommenterIt doesn't add up...

Thank you for your insight.

Nov 6, 2014 at 11:03 PM | Unregistered CommenterAnything is possible

@Martin Reed

Whilst there is some truth in the "dirty cheap oil badly combusted on big ships" - the discussion has been framed by eco activists ... (Hello Fred Pearce!) bunker oil is a generic term for any fuel used by a ship and airplanes too in many places so it's far too broad a brush being used - and smacks of "anticapitalism". Fred Pearce's 2009 article contains claims for effects not based on any real world measurement but highly subjective and unverified projections.

The residual fuel oils 4, 5 and 6 are the primary issue - emissions are being reduced as seawater does it's work = requiring the replacement of the worlds fleets.... I understand desulpherisation is viable on new builds and mitigation is possible by flagging authorities mandating lower sulphur fuel.

Not all 100,000 ships quoted actually burn these oils

However you look at it, the super-ships are rogues on the high seas, operating under pollution standards long since banished on land; warming the planet and killing its inhabitants.
is BS.

Might as well say "Stop ALL imports by sea from China until a fleet of solar & wind powered vessels is available"

Nov 7, 2014 at 12:17 AM | Registered Commentertomo

Columbian premium carbon @ £320/tonne:

Nov 7, 2014 at 12:50 AM | Unregistered Commenternot banned yet

tomo - I advocated a huge fleet of wind-powered ships on this blogsite ages ago..!

'The wind's always blowing somewhere' (official DECC statement) - so - what's not to like..??

Nov 7, 2014 at 9:18 AM | Unregistered Commentersherlock1

Grantham and the other hedge fund billionaires have not told the DECC what the price should be yet. Bob Ward will get his instructions soon and get DECC up to speed.

Nov 7, 2014 at 10:56 AM | Unregistered Commenterhunter


I suppose they should be fitted with big oars for cross equatorial passages.

Nov 7, 2014 at 11:08 AM | Registered Commentertomo

Not banned yet:

Cheap, I tell you, cheap.

$50 billion per tonne, just for carbon.

Nov 7, 2014 at 11:23 AM | Unregistered CommenterIt doesn't add up...

So many good jokes and one-liners, but alas, the world of commercial comedy is 99% left wing/warmist.

I watched (in between doing other things) an episode of Would I Lie to You tonight, and that little guy David whatsisname, who is quite funny on neutral topics, just had to put in a dig about CAGW. He said something like "you are the kind of liar who would insist that the sun is shining while the sea is rising over your head. No Climate Change, right." This got a huge guffaw from the panel and audience.

I have literally lol'd from brilliant comments from sceptics, including (perhaps especially) here. But they sink without trace.

Nov 7, 2014 at 11:34 AM | Registered Commenterjohanna


The discussion regarding pollution from shipping may or not have been framed by eco-activists. I think however it has to be taken on its merits (or lack of them), just as genuinely sceptical people are always inclined repeatedly to question the merits of their own cherished beliefs.

We are not talking about jet fuel here or anything resembling it, this is about bunker fuel, the thick almost solid crud that is left at the end of the process of fractional distillation. It is heavily polluted with around 2,000 times the sulphur content of the petrol used in cars and it is the fuel used by not just sixteen container ships but by literally thousands of vessels for the greater part of the time they are at sea, although not necessarily when they are close to land. I do not think there is any dispute about these facts.

This therefore is about pollution on a vastly greater scale than anything motor vehicles cause. Certainly it is about pollution which is mainly washed into the sea by rain and fog but that doesn't mean it can be ignored. The seas contain vast quantities of micro organisms that form the basis of the food chain and are also a factor affecting global climate to some degree.

I do not believe that being sceptical about the possibility that CO2 has any significant effect on climate means that we should sit back and ignore real pollution. CO2 is not a pollutant so does not come into this argument. Sulphur and nitrogen oxides are pollutants which have recognised adverse outcomes.

My point is basically that the automobile industry is being forced to spend ridiculous and ever increasing sums on reducing emissions from cars. This must already run into billions and includes the development of hybrids, electric cars, energy recovery systems, petrol turbos, etc. The only measurable outcome of this silly nonsense is every increasing car mpg figures on government tests which themselves bear little relation to mpg achieved in the real world. I reject this because this wasteful misdirection of capital would never have been demanded by markets, just as markets reject the mass installation of wind farms and solar panels. Thus the mote in the eye of the bureaucrat or politician that needed to be cast out before targetting cars was pollution on a vastly greater scale at sea. This is simply about getting things into proportion as engineers do, rather than straining at gnats as politicians are inclined, with the man in the street ending up paying the heavy price.

Nov 7, 2014 at 11:50 AM | Unregistered CommenterMartin Reed

Martin Reed, I would have a lot more faith your concerns if you could put your point in perspective. How much "pollution" is there relative to the volume of the sea? What demonstrable damage is it doing?

In both cases, the answers are unmeasurably small, in practice zero.

Nov 7, 2014 at 12:20 PM | Registered Commenterjohanna

Martin Reed - do you fancy taking sea emissions to discussion? I'd like to know your references in support of your case.

My understanding is the much of the cost benefit analysis which supports air quality policy is based on human health impacts. These are driven by population exposure to pollution and that is the reason why reducing internal combustion engine emissions on land, and particularly in high population density urban areas, is a more effective policy than reducinig offshore shipping emissionns. One area which you might be surprised to know of is the impacts of uncontrolled two stroke emissions - one quick example reference here:

Nov 7, 2014 at 1:59 PM | Unregistered Commenternot banned yet

It doesn't add up - quite! Let me know if you come across an uncontrolled source.... :-)

Nov 7, 2014 at 2:01 PM | Unregistered Commenternot banned yet

If you are not going to use the heavy bunker oil to power ships what are you going to do with it? You could try landfill, or burning it off, or just leave it to solidify in tanks. (It has to be heated to keep it liquid) The good stuff has already been taken out so you are left with a residue that is used to transport the worlds commodities. I cannot see a problem. The world is 3/4's ocean and I don't suppose the total number of ships would use as many resources as London. Perhaps we should ban London and see how that works?

Nov 8, 2014 at 11:27 AM | Unregistered CommenterIvor Ward

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