Profiting from climate change: Ben Pile

Imagine an unpopular, impotent, and fragile UK Government, trying to make political capital out of a looming crisis. To avoid being embarrassed by criticism of its shallow policies, it appoints an independent panel of experts, to which it defers controversial decisions. Now imagine that the panel proposes measures from which its members and their associates will directly benefit.

It couldn’t happen here, you may think. Scandal and resignations would surely follow. Who could possibly allow vested interests to profit from the legislation they are instrumental in creating?

This week, an independent panel of experts called the Climate Change Committee (CCC) published the details of its recent advice to Parliament that the UK should reduce its CO2 emissions by 80 per cent by 2050.

There’s no doubt there’s money to be made from this new legislation, which was passed last week. A recent conference, given the title ‘Cashing in on Carbon’ was, in its own words, “aimed squarely at investment banks, investors and major compliance buyers and is focused on how they can profit today from an increasingly diverse range of carbon-related investment opportunities”.

…Read more at The Register.

The New Green Aristocracy: Ben Pile

Brilliant analysis on environmentalism and the legitimacy – Andrew.

An aristocracy is a form of government by an elite that considers itself to possess greater virtues than the hoi polloi, giving it the right to rule in its own interests. Aristocrats were referred to as ‘the nobility’, or ‘nobs’. These days we prefer decisions to be made democratically – the idea being that we can judge for ourselves which ideas serve our interests, thank you very much, ma’am.

But in recent years, politicians have sought legitimacy for their positions from outside of the democratic process. A new aristocracy is emerging from the emptiness of UK politics – and it’s considerably more virtuous than thou.

…Read more at The Register.

How the middle classes' superstitions keep Africa poor and hungry

The man dubbed the “King of Climate Porn” achieved notoriety at the turn of the decade as the architect of the Foot and Mouth holocaust – which unnecessarily slaughtered seven million animals, and cost the country billions of pounds. But King astonished observers by saying something sensible last week – and he promises to do so again tonight.

Speaking at the British Association’s Science Week, King will say that the Greenies’ anti-science superstitions are causing unnecessary suffering in Africa. King blames “anti-poverty” campaigners, aid agencies and environmental activists for keeping modern farming techniques and bio-technology out of Africa. King tells the Times today:

“The suffering within [Africa], I believe, is largely driven by attitudes developed in the West which are somewhat anti-science, anti-technology – attitudes that lead towards organic farming, for example, attitudes that lead against the use of genetic technology for crops that could deal with increased salinity in the water, that can deal with flooding for rice crops, that can deal with drought resistance.”

King wonders why recent productivity revolutions in agriculture, which have been such a success in Asia and India, have not been implemented in Africa on the same scale. He concludes that the blame lies not with Africans, but with Western “do-gooders” who prefer Africans to remain picturesque and dirt poor.

An example he cites is the attempts of eco-campaigners Friends of the Earth to keep drought-resistant crops out of Africa.

He has a point.

“Where once there were ambitions for people in the third world to enjoy Western standards of living, now the voice of the voiceless instead celebrates the primitive lifestyles that the world’s poorest people suffer,” wrote Ben Pile and Stuart Blackman recently in a scathing critique of the charity Oxfam, called Backwards to the future.

Indeed, and the same middle-class superstitions that endeavour to keep Wi-Fi out of schools are used to justify keeping biotechnology out of Africa.

For example, Friends of the Earth continues to argue that modern seed technologies should not be used to make agriculture easier and more productive for poor farmers – even when this causes more ecological damage than the new technology. FoE’s most recent campaign against biotech means that subsistence farmers must continue to use seeds that require more fertiliser than GM varieties, and which need environmentally-destructive tilling.

Whatever it is that motivates these self-styled “Greens”, it isn’t a concern for the environment. Nor, despite claims to the contrary, is there any valid concern of “over-population”. The UN estimates global population growth to peak in the 2040s at 7.87bn, then decline, assuming modest development is permitted to continue. Not only does economic development mean fewer people, but it means less suffering: those fewer people are much happier.

Clearly, we can easily generate enough food to feed everyone on the planet and we have the means to ensure there’s less human suffering. Some people want that to happen – and some don’t. You’ll find many nursing their Malthusian or Eugenics prejudices under the banner of Greenery in the former camp – but it’s a refreshing surprise to find King in the latter camp, or at least edging away from the Greens’ death cult.

©Situation Publishing 2008.

Flush away the Eco Slums

Who would have guessed that in 2008, a pledge to give British people flushing toilets would be a shock vote winner?

The Conservatives this week promised to scrap the Government’s plans for 15 “eco towns” which will potentially house 100,000 people. These have been heralded as a new era in design, but you need to take a closer look at both the theory and practice to see the full, grim picture.

Firstly, it’s clear that “design goal” is enforcing patterns of behavior on people.

“What are the responsibilities we each must share in return for the freedoms we enjoy?” asked Town and Country Planning Association chief David Lock last year when introducing a report. Lock and his quango are advising the Government on the initiative. What does he mean? He means freedoms you previously enjoyed have been clawed back.

Almost every aspect of life in the eco towns is minutely regulated. The streets are too small to drive around, and if you must drive the mandatory speed limit is 15mph. Planners are particularly excited about installing eco toilets that don’t flush. Because flushing is “the worst thing ever devised by modern man,” (according to one advocate), compost toilets may be mandatory. You won’t have a choice.

We took a look at one candidate loo, and the description gives us a whiff of this fragrant, low carbon future:

“The dry fecal matter is captured by a built-in teflon-coated bowl with a turning mechanism and is ‘flushed’ into wheeled bins in the buildings’ basements. ‘Flushing’ uses sawdust, dispensed from the back of the toilet, instead of water.”

Lovely.

Residents will also be required to pay a fine, mooted at around £2 ($4), each time they leave the town.

So these are really detention centres – with behaviour set down in advance by the Carbon Cult. Residents will not be able to vote on whether they want to have flushing toilets.

Another clue that they’re about punishment emerged this spring, when ministers described them as “healthy towns”. The eco-camps will aim to tackle obesity by encouraging lots of walking about, said Health minister Alan Johnson in April.

And being confined to such a grim existence means the end of social mobility. Forget about advancing along the precarious housing ladder. The houses will be far more expensive than they should be, because they’re saddled with fashionable but useless totems of Greenery such as “micro generation” turbines, that can’t even power a light bulb.

Nowhere in the glossy brochures that describe “what makes eco towns different” is employment mentioned. The new settlements are remote – several are on disused airfields – and “will become the eco-slums of the future if they are built without regards to where residents can get jobs or training,” the LGA’s Simon Milton has predicted.

Low resource use developments don’t have to be miserable – but with the eco towns, this is the whole point. Marry old-fashioned paternalism (where the proles should be grateful for what they get ) to the Carbon Cult’s misanthropy (where being alive is a sin) and what else do you get, but a boring, smelly slum? This time, by design.

TV tells CO2-emitting children to die early

ABC's Planet Slayer

Carbon Cult sickos are under fire for an interactive website that tells children they should die because they emit CO2.

The Australian Broadcasting Corporation’s “Planet Slayer” site invites young children to take a “greenhouse gas quiz”, asking them “how big a pig are you?”. At the end of the quiz, the pig explodes, and ABC tells children at “what age you should die at so you don’t use more than your fair share of Earth’s resources!”

It’s one of a number of interactive features that “Get the dirt on greenhouse without the guilt trips. No lectures. No multinational-bashing (well, maybe a little…). Just fun and games and the answers to all your enviro-dilemas,” ABC claims.

The site is aimed at 9-year olds. However even a “virtuous” rating (e.g. not owning a car and recycling) is outweighed by eating meat, or spending an average Aussie income – with the result that many 9-year olds are being told they’ve already outstayed their environmentally-compliant stay on the planet.

“Do you think it’s appropriate that the ABC … depict people who are average Australians as massive overweight ugly pigs, oozing slime from their mouths, and then to have these pigs blow up in a mass of blood and guts?” asked Senator Mitch Fifield in the Herald-Sun.

The state-sponsored broadcaster (why is that not a surprise?) defended the morbid quiz, with ABC managing director Mark Scott insisting “the site was not designed to offend certain quarters of the community but to engage children in environmental issues.”

Which is eco-speak for frighten them witless. However, as the excellent science blog Watts Up With That points out, the site clearly breaches Australian broadcasting guidelines on “harmful or disturbing” content.

Meanwhile, the site’s designers are revelling in the controversy:

“Thank God for outraged senators – you can’t buy publicity like that,” PlanetSlayer’s “creative director” Bernie Hobbs crowed to the New York Post.

So how, according to ABC, does one appease the vengeful Death God, Gaia?
Continue reading “TV tells CO2-emitting children to die early”

Rationing: the UK's parallel currency

Environment Minister Hilary Benn again rebuffed calls this week for WW2-style energy rationing to return to the UK. He was responding to a Select Committee report urging ministers to issue 45 million Britons with an energy trading “credit card” – a mammoth techno-bureaucratic exercise costing several billions of pounds a year to operate.

What’s interesting is how the normal parliamentary business was turned upside down.

Usually, it’s ministers who propose batty and unworkable legislation, and fail to cost it, while select committees are supposed to scrutinize the proposals: picking apart the logic and bogus cost estimates. But in this case the select committee in question – the “Environmental Audit Committee” – is positively evangelical about a return to rationing. Perhaps not surprisingly, ministers are wary of committing electoral suicide, or at least, not in quite such an obvious fashion.

Benn said his department DEFRA had made its own enquiry, which unlike the watchdog’s investigation, included costs. A rationing scheme would cost between £700m and £2bn to set up, he said, and between £1bn and £2bn a year to operate he said.

“In essence it is ahead of its time,” the minister said Tuesday. “The cost of implementing it would be quite high and there are a lot of practical problems to be overcome.” Front bench Tories are equally wary.

So what are the MPs proposing?

The ration, or “personal carbon allowance” or PCA, is a measure of an individual’s energy usage, either at home or traveling. Such usage is capped, and “further emissions rights will simply not be available,” the Committee says. You may choose between a holiday, and turning on the heating. Points win prizes, however, and frugal individuals would be rewarded financially from the creation of an internal market.
Continue reading “Rationing: the UK's parallel currency”

A Puny Wind

Domestic “microwind” turbines, recently championed as “power from the people” by opposition leader David Cameron, are about as useful as a chocolate teapot.

A study of domestic turbines was published by renewable energy consultants Encraft in December. According to the study, only one of the 15 household wind turbines generated enough to power a 75W light bulb. The average daily output was 393.3 Watt hours: an average of 17W.

In all, only three of the turbines generated over 400 Watt hours of electricity, with one generating 1,790 Watt hours.

Four of the turbines didn’t even make it into three figures. By way of comparison, a washing machine consumes 4kW (4,000W), and a fridge-freezer 1.9kW. [PDF,1MB]

The average turbine also operates at only 1.84 per cent of capacity.

The carbon-obsessed BBC has suggested that a domestic turbine may contribute about “a fifth” of a household’s electricity needs – but the reality is this is only true if the household’s only electricity need is one fifth of a single crack-den-dim light bulb.

Encraft stresses it’s early days, which is true – the first 13 sites only went live last January, with 13 more following in October.

However, it appears that the measured windspeed for many sites fell below the predicted figure. Turbulence in built-up areas makes for poor windflow. Or as SK Watson, of the Centre for Renewable Energy System Technology at Loughborough University, observes:

“Those areas with higher capacity factor are where urban areas tend not to be!”

Worse, the measured energy output from the domestic turbines was far below the “theoretical” energy predicted.

Er, quite.

The trial has suffered other problems. One turbine was stolen, another damaged, and a further one was beseiged by pro-bat protestors. Several needed their inverters replacing.

“We have had some reality checks,” Encraft admits.

However, Encraft MD Matthew Rhodes, quoted in The Guardian found one “benefit” from the white elephants. Apparently, seven out of ten people who see a turbine say it reminds them to save energy.

The logic is, apparently, that when one sees one of these monuments to self-righteousness, one dashes back to turn the lights off.

But surely there must be cheaper ways of inducing feelings of guilt and low self-worth in the general population – such as availing oneself of the latest Radiohead album, perhaps?

Radiohead backs WW2-style austerity program

Radiohead on tour?

Misery will be compulsory, if top rockers Radiohead have their way. The band have thrown their weight behind a “World War 2”-style programme of austerity measures: including restrictions on behaviour, and higher taxes.

Last week, two newspaper columnists called for a return to the kind of social coercion only ever seen before in wartime. It’s all for the sake of “the environment”, but as we’ll see – it’s a very peculiar and selective version of environmentalism.

Singer Thom Yorke told The Observer:

Unless you have laws in place, nothing’s going to happen…

Nothing of this is going to be voluntary. [sic] It’s a bizarre form of rationing that we’re all going to have to accept, just like people did in the Second World War.”

It’s the War On CO2, of course, and Radiohead will be doing “their bit”.
Continue reading “Radiohead backs WW2-style austerity program”