A new analysis of energy use involving conventional fuels shows greenhouse gas emissions in the UK went down 3.4 percent. The bulk of that drop came due to coal but above-average temperatures helped. Unfortunately, so did record-high fuel prices, which means quality of life may have declined for the poor.

Certainly there has been no end to protests in the UK about the cost of energy but overall the economy has survived, which is proof that economies and conventional energy can be "decoupled."

This has been mirrored in the United States, where government employees outnumber coal miners by 400 to 1 while environmentalists still declare coal miners the large problem we face. Yet in the US, a lot of the savings were because the private sector made energy generation using natural gas more efficient, not because we were a large chunk of the $4 trillion thrown at alternative energy mandates and subsidies. The Obama admninistration's Clean Power Plan was abandoned because it was irrelevant before it even went to court; the private sector doesn't want their profits going up in smoke and had lowered emissions to what the CPP would have mandated by 2025, which left only environmental trial lawyers hoping for a settlement pushing it.

Simon Evans, writing in Carbon Brief, rightly notes this is a win, and it certainly is if you ignore the cost of energy in the UK. Population level statistics have little relevance in your daily life, and total emissions are the BMI of energy - nice to know but chasing an average isn't helpful - yet the results, despite the quality of life problem, are so compelling that they have to be noted; coal use hasn't been so low in the UK since 1757, when a German named George II was king of England.(1) 

This looks great, unless you have to fall back on using runaway energy costs and declining use because people are freezing as 'economic expansion'

Of course, 'use' is not 'demand' and a whole lot of people griping about the cost of energy in the UK wish coal miners were allowed to go back to work. Coal miners are also not happy about living in poverty, but neither are journalists who were at Slate and Gothamist that wanted to unionize and found that progressive media outlets are still capitalist at heart. Cultural change will have winners and losers and maybe former coal miners can get jobs at a government-funded solar power company.

Is the shift sustainable? Yes and no. Emissions would have grown last year if we hadn't been in a cyclical warmer period, La Niña et al., and there hadn't been a mandated push for more expensive alternative energy. In reality, the supply was low and costs were high, which is not a win for anyone, yet properly framed, the way the Biden administration is also doing, high inflation and runaway costs can be framed as a net positive - economic "expansion."

Forget all the pesky context, it basically does mean there is hope. The British Army has rarely had a spectacular victory without having a crushing disaster first, that is the English way, and while solar and wind are absolutely unsustainable right now, the Prime Minster job will soon have "(insert your name here)" on the placard if runaway spending and freezing people remain the norm. If government instead gets out of the way and stops mandating and subsidizing technology that wasn't ready 50 years ago and still is not, they can find a balance that will keep a decent quality of life while not kicking the emissions can down the road.

The US has done that. We still weirdly hate nuclear energy (Britain imports it from France) but have accepted that natural gas increases and cleaner processes, not coal declines, are why we are making ground now. It just took cultural maturity and throwing off the shackles of environmentalists who wanted nuclear banned and stuck us with coal. The private sector fixed natural gas emissions while providing more affordable natural gas - but then environmentalists turned on that former darling too.


(1) They finally changed their name from Saxe-Coburg-Gotha to a British one (Windsor) during World War I - it looked bad for a British monarch with a German name cheering on British soldiers dying against German ones. George II wasn't the crazy one who put put taxes on American colonials, then tried to take their guns, and set off the American Revolution. That was George III. The Deuce was so on point he fought alongside his soldiers in 1743 - but it was in his home country of Germany, defending against the French. So maybe he was still German first.