Wednesday 22 October 2014
It is interesting seeing the world form the enemy's point of view – i.e., the New Statesman. Compared with that, the EU is a mere pussy.
Thus we are told that David Cameron will later this week meet fellow European leaders to try and conclude fraught negotiations over EU strategy on energy and climate change. In the shadow of the crisis in Ukraine, the focus will be firmly on what the new measures mean for Europe's energy security, but reaching an international emissions agreement at next year's UN summit is firmly on the agenda.
On this question, the New Statesman thinks Ed Davey has been something of the unsung hero of the negotiations. He has assembled a pan-European coalition of ministers to champion more ambition on cutting "carbon pollution" and he "commendably" remains the primary advocate for leaving the door open to upping Europe's effort on emissions.
In other words, if things weren't bad enough, we have a minister who wants even more of it. Jim Skea, British representative on the IPCC tells us the target currently under consideration by the EU is a 40 percent cut in "carbon pollution" on 1990 levels by 2030.
This, we are led to believe is "too little, too late", so Ed Davey "is right to press" for the cuts to be increased to 50 percent. This Davey believes, would be better for the European economy as a whole.
Back in 2007, the last time leaders met to agree a comprehensive European climate and energy plan, Tony Blair and Angela Merkel signed off on a deal to cute CO2 output of by 20 percent, improve energy efficiency by 20 per cent, meet 20 percent of energy demand from renewables – the so-called 20-20-20 target.
While package was seen as "mightily ambitious" at the time, a combination of economic downturn, deindustrialisation of many of the central and eastern European economies, and increased use of gas, the emissions target was met seven years ahead of schedule.
The mad thing, though, is that the UK is set to miss the renewables target, alongside 13 other member states, while the progress in energy efficiency has been "extremely modest" to say the least. Between 1990 and 2010, final energy consumption in the EU27 grew by seven percent. In the household sector the increase was 12 percent.
However, none of this seems to deter the New Statesman, or indeed Mr Davey. Despite not reaching the crucial targets – and only meeting the emissions target by accident – they want to see us racking up future targets even more.
With that, we are also to see some heavy breathing on the emissions trading scheme, from which the French expect "solid results".
The one thing we are not going to get from Mr Cameron, therefore, is any row-back from the climate change lunacy which has been infecting the coalition administration ever since he took office.
But, despite the UK enthusiasm, the outcome of the European Council is very far from assured. The question being asked is whether "Europe" is any longer capable of making the big decisions any more. For all our sakes, we hope not.
Wednesday 22 October 2014
That Mr Farage has sought the support of an MEP from a party that Marine Le Pen has rejected as being "too extreme" has to tell you something about the crazy world of European Parliament politics.
More telling is the almost total inability of the media to report accurately what is going on, with Iain Martin huffing and puffing about Farage's "despicable new EU alliance", as if it actually meant anything, other than a quite open attempt by UKIP to get their hands on EU money and parliamentary privileges.
The point about the political groups in the European Parliament is that they are marriages of convenience, for the express purpose of getting the dosh. Officially, they are intended to be proto-pan-European political parties and, so keen are the "colleagues" that they should happen that the rules on them are extraordinarily relaxed.
According to the rules of procedure (Rule 32), MEPs "may form themselves into groups according to their political affinities", but the rules then say that, "Parliament need not normally evaluate the political affinity of members of a group".
Bizarrely, they then go on, "In forming a group together under this Rule, the Members concerned accept by definition that they have political affinity. Only when this is denied by the Members concerned is it necessary for Parliament to evaluate whether the group has been constituted in accordance with the Rules".
This is rather like the former US military "don't ask, don't tell" policy on gays. Putative group members apply to form a group, on which basis it is assumed that there is a "political affinity". But the Parliament does not ask and, unless the group members actually come out in the open and say there is none, the assumption stands.
However, there is plenty of wriggle-room. The rules say that Parliament need not "normally" evaluate the political affinity of the members of the group – but that does not prohibit president Schultz from carrying out an evaluation. He could then, in theory at any rate, decide that there is no "affinity" between the national groups and thus refuse to allow a group to be formed.
And it is here that the media are getting it wrong – aided and abetted by Farage – in their talk of the EFDD being "reformed" or saved, by the last-minute intervention of their Polish friend. The thing is that there is no EFDD. Within hours of the group losing its Latvian member, the offices were being stripped, locked up and keys withdrawn. There is no group. Le groupe est mort.
Thus, Farage is in the throes of setting up an entirely new group – and it cannot necessarily be assumed that the members of his previous group will all join him. There will be a frantic bidding war, to try and prevent that from happening.
But then, even if Farage does manage to surmount that hurdle, as Euractiv accurately points out, it must then have the approval of the parliament's president, Mr Schultz, who positively loathes Mr Farage.
One can assume that, even now, Mr Schultz is poring over the rules, and consulting lawyers, to see if there is any way he can keep Farage separate from his millions, and the chauffeur-driven car.
Eventually, there is even an outside chance that this could go to the ECJ. That would be a real irony: Farage appealing to the EU's court, to give him access to the EU's millions. But then, this is the crazy world of European Parliament politics. Anything, or even nothing, can happen.
Tuesday 21 October 2014
We were quick off the mark on the MH17 tragedy and now, three months after the event, German Intelligence, via der Spiegel is taking the view that the downing was caused by pro-Russian separatists, using a BUK missile.
While the Mail was telling its readers that a BUK was something you could pack in a golf bag and the Sun was blaming it on Putin, I think we called it right, from the very first. And that was despite the "paper of record" getting it totally wrong.
What we are looking at here is that Gerhard Schindler, president of the BND, told a secret [German] parliamentary committee on security affairs earlier this month that it had intelligence indicating that pro-Russian separatists had captured a BUK air defence missile system from a Ukrainian military base and had fired a missile on 17 July that had exploded in direct proximity to the Malaysian aircraft.
Schindler says his agency has come up with unambiguous findings. One is that Ukrainian photos have been manipulated and that there are details indicating this. He also told the parliamentary committee that Russian claims the missile had been fired by Ukrainian soldiers and that a Ukrainian fighter jet had been flying close to the passenger jet were false. "It was pro-Russian separatists", Schindler said.
I think the point must be made here. If you accept the careful, sober analysis of the German Intelligence Service (BND), we got it right while the legacy media was floundering around and getting it wrong. Furthermore, we did with far more technical detail and analysis, and far quicker than most of the media sources.
Even now, when actually reporting on the BND report, the Mail is still revisiting its own errors, with the video of a BUK radar system which it calls a missile launcher. That's the other thing about the legacy media – they rarely correct their own errors.
At least though the Mail did report the BND findings, which is more than can be said of the rest of the British media. Noticeably absent are the Times and the Sun which were quick to blame Putin – and are now equally slow to issue a corrective.
And, of course, we have Booker who not only got it right, but also asked questions that have yet to be answered. An alert media would have picked them up – and the failure to do so tells its own story.
The fact that we are so ill-served by our media should not pass without comment. Time and time again, we are told that a free media is an essential part of a functioning democracy, on which basis the media claims its rights and privileges.
But, of course, the effect depends of the media doing its job diligently. And, as the MH17 saga indicates – there is very little evidence of that happening.
Tuesday 21 October 2014
There is already a lot of excited chatter about the effect the fire at Didcot B power station will have on our electricity supply over the winter. But since this has only affected four out of 31 cooling cells, and has left the generating plant untouched, it is unlikely that there will be any long-term affect.
However, the very fact that the power station had to be shut down at very short notice adds stress to an already stressed system. However, even had we lost the 1.3GW supply, there would have been no immediate risk of the lights going out. Although it would have put posted capacity very close to peak winter demand, there is still a "hidden reserve" of 10GW in the system, the same as three Hinkley C nuclear power plants.
Nevertheless, the fire does show how fragile the system has become, and how vulnerable it is to disruption. Didcot is the third major fire in a non-nuclear power plant this year (Ferrybridge and Ironbridge) and with two major nuclear plants out of order (Heysham and Hartlepool), there is no flexibility left in the system.
Furthermore, we should not just be looking at the UK. If the Ukraine situation bubbles over, and Mr Putin reacts even more than he had already doen, the whole of Europe could be short of gas over the winter, and competing with us for supplies.
Also France is due to close a major nuclear plant shortly, and disruptions to Belgium nuclear plants - connected in with the French system - means that there is 3GW offline there. France may, as a result, find it difficult to supply the 2GW it sends us through the interconnector.
Given these additional stresses, a prolonged cold winter could bring us to the edge, where another major incident such as Didcot could be the tipping point, with a serious risk of blackouts and even grid collapse. In the latter event, some major areas of England could be without power for 2-3 weeks.
But what is not realised is that, had the last government stuck to its original plans for electricity supply, we would be at no risk of collapse, and the national system would be much more resilient, because we should have been furnished with another 10GW from combined heat and power (CHP). But, because of successive failures in government energy policy, that safety margin does not exist.
To trace the failures to their roots we can go as far back as 1982 when the House of Commons select committee on energy visited Denmark to examine schemes there, coming back with the view that the successful application indicated that CHP in the UK, "would be an insurance policy with a low premium against a future of possibly insecure and expensive energy supplies".
Despite this prescience, it was not until the 1990 White Paper on the Environment that we saw a formal government target for CHP. This was set at a mere 4MWe of installed capacity for the year 2000 – doubling the then existing capacity. As early progress was encouraging (from a very low base) in 1993, the government announced an increase in the target to 5GWe as part of the UK Climate Change Programme.
In March 1996, a report for the Department of the Environment followed in the footsteps of the MPs in 1982 and reported that Denmark had implemented a national plan to utilise the heat energy more effectively.
Local authorities had cooperated with utility companies to install commercial and domestic heating systems based on the use of the hot water or low pressure steam from the power plants. In 1987, for example, 46 percent of their heating had already been based on CHP or district heating schemes and had been forecast to reach 56 percent by the turn of the century.
This move has already led to the conversion of an average 37 percent electrical efficiency across the country to about 55 percent thermal efficiency. One of the utility companies made the point that if the current Danish efficiency could be applied at a stroke in China, it would save more coal than the whole of Europe currently burns. Consequently, in terms of CO2 and air pollutants, the report concluded, the key is to improve efficiency.
Only three months later, the first Government CHP Strategy was published, dated June 1996. It identified barriers to further progress in expanding the uptake of CHP and opportunities for the future. At last, the Government was taking CHP seriously, but it was not to last.
In June 2000 the Royal Commission on Environmental Pollution (RCEP)'s report: Energy – The Changing Climate, was published. It was this that set us on the path to a 60 percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2050, which was all too soon to become an 80 percent emission reduction target – a move which was to spell the demise of CHP.
Two years later, though, in 2002, we saw the launch of the a draft strategy on CHP, updating previous work. Environment Minister Michael Meacher declared that the government was still committed to the future of CHP and was making changes to the Climate Change Levy worth £15m per year, increasing to £25m, to make the technology more viable.
In December of the same year, Mr Meacher was telling MPs that his department was developing the draft CHP Strategy, which would set out the measures needed to achieve a target of at least 10GW of "good quality" CHP by 2010.
This was followed in short order by the 2003 Energy White Paper entitled: "Our energy future - creating a low carbon economy". Published in the February, it had a foreword by Tony Blair in which he reinforced the linkage between energy and climate change - "largely caused by burning fossil fuels".
The white paper, Blair said, gave "a new direction for energy policy", showing leadership by putting the UK on a path to a 60 percent reduction in carbon dioxide emissions by 2050.
It should be noted that the target had remained at 60 percent reduction – not 80 percent as it was later to be. And to achieve this, combined heat and power (CHP) fitted into the "wider picture". The white paper also noted that the UK had reached around 5GW of CHP installed capacity.
A year later, in 2004, came the Government's full CHP strategy for 2010, which had Margaret Beckett continuing to aim at our target of 10GWe of "good quality" CHP capacity in the UK by 2010.
By then, the Government was at last beginning to understand the huge potential offered by CHP. It was citing a 1997 report which had given a range for 2010 of between 10 and 17GWe, the latter being close to the capacity of the nuclear sector. Additional work suggested a further potential of 2GWe in community heating, bringing the total to 19GWe.
It only took three years more for another energy white paper, this one in May 2007, Notable was the way CHP was still very much on the agenda, with eighty references to the technology in the text.
From there we finally saw an official government evaluation of technology, carried out on the behest of the European Commission and its CHP Directive. Entitled, "Analysis of the UK potential for Combined Heat and Power", it modelled capacity reaching 16GW by 2015 – nearly a quarter of Britain's peak demand – with a further potential for 21.5GW of district heating.
This was not expressed as a target, but a potential. And it was one which was never to be realised. A year later we were see the Climate Change Act which between the second and third reading upped the ante from 60 percent emission cut to 80 and made it a statutory requirement.
And there lay the death sentence for CHP. In future plans, it effectively disappears off the map at 2030. While low-carbon CHP could have contributed to the 60 percent target, the 80 percent target rendered it obsolete. Only low-carbon renewables, nuclear and CCS-abated coal and gas were allowed. CPH didn't fit the profile.
Organisations such as Greenpeace which were extolling the virtues of CHP in 2007 were voluble in mid-2008, telling us in a commissioned report that there could be up to 16GW more industrial CHP, the equivalent of 8 nuclear power stations.
There was the occasional flutter as government support was reduced but, by and large, support has been muted since the 80 percent emissions target became law. With small-scale, gas-fired CHP, the target cannot be reached.
As a result, what could easily have become 16GWe of installed CHP capacity by the end of next year is set to be missed by a clear 10GW. Installed capacity of "good quality" CHP is stuck at 6GW, only one GW more than it had been 12 years previously in 2003. Thus we have a missing 10GW, an extra capacity which, if it was available, would have added a comfortable margin to what is going to be a tense situation.
However, readers can be assured that our masters will not be troubled by blackouts arising from their neglect. Despite depriving the nation of the undoubted benefits of CHP, No.10 Downing Street and 22 other buildings in Whitehall, including the DECC offices, the Treasury and the Civil Service Club, are supplied with heat and power from a private power station in the bowels of the main MoD building, the heat distributed via 12km of insulated piping to the departments.
Contracts were awarded in December 1995, in the dog days of the Major government, and at a cost of £7.82 million, a 4.9MWe Altstrom gas turbine was installed, capable of delivering 8MW of heat. It was fully commissioned in October 2005, just as Mr Blair was working up to his energy policy that was going to turn the lights out all over the UK.
This ensures that, when the blackouts come, Mr Cameron will be as warm as toast, and basking in taxpayer-funded light. And, as is their due, his mandarins can continue to sip their G&Ts in the comfort of the Civil Service Club, without having to resort to anything so vulgar as torches and candles.
Monday 20 October 2014
This is a guest post from Autonomous Mind
In discussions on a number of posts on this blog, some commenters have repeatedly pushed their position that we should not be trying to secure David Cameron’s promised in-out referendum on EU membership in 2017 (subject to election results). The basis for their position is that, i) Cameron can't be trusted, and ii) Cameron would (gasp) try to win his argument that the UK remain in the EU.
When asked what they consider an appropriate time would be for an in-out referendum, a popular retort is that we should wait for a new Treaty negotiation to trigger the so called referendum lock.
The argument I have made against this time and again is brought into sharp relief by a contribution on today's Telegraph letters page. For it is there that we see the editors give prominence to the submission of one GH Jones from Bangor in Wales, whose letter expresses his concern that they would not want to make a decision on "in-out" on the basis of just one issue such as immigration, when they write:
Mr Cameron's approach will be popular and might well lead, if his demand is unsuccessful, to Britain's withdrawal from the EU. But is it really good government to have such a momentous decision depend on a single issue such as immigration? I don’t know how I would cast my vote in any referendum, but I would not want the debate to focus on just one factor.
Substitute "immigration" for "treaty change" or "treaty amendment", or even something as specific as "new financial regulatory regime" - which is just one possible issue that could trigger the referendum lock and an in-out vote - and the premise remains the same. It would be far more difficult to convince people to vote to leave the EU in such circumstances.
A vote triggered by a single issue would lead to a campaign narrative among the Europhiles that it would be a grossly excessive response to vote to leave the EU just because the regulatory model for the financial sector was being changed. Wouldn't it be, they would argue, wholly disproportionate to vote to leave the union just because of such an innocuous technical change?
The likes of GH Jones would likely buy that argument and see the anti EU campaign as an unreasonable overreaction. There lies the path to losing a referendum.
Waiting for a referendum lock-triggered in-out referendum is a dangerous approach because such a campaign would strengthen the likelihood of voters choosing to stick with the status quo.
David Cameron, returning from the continent with a jumble of vague commitments and undefined pledges and trying to convince voters he has secured meaningful change to the way the UK is governed and the laws to which we are bound, with all negative aspects of membership being on the table, would result in a far more powerful anti EU sentiment and make voters feel far more comfortable about rejecting the status quo and continued membership.
The promise of a 2017 referendum is not perfect, but it remains the best opportunity for anti-EU Britons to achieve their wish of regaining British independence. It would be a fight, but so would any campaign. However, it would be more even and winnable than if we fought a Brexit campaign against a backdrop of what would be painted as a largely irrelevant, technical, single issue.
Monday 20 October 2014
Normally, presidents of the European commission are cautious about interfering directly in the internal politics of member states. But not Mr Barroso.
No sooner do we have Mr Cameron emblazoned on the front page of the Sunday Times
, apparently threatening to impose a cap on EU migrants, then up pops Barroso on the Marr programme telling him that he can't do that.
Interestingly, that's what both the Mail
and the Guardian
chose to feature, but not the BBC
, which elected to feature on the "loss of influence" meme, for when we leave the EU.
The thing about that tired line or argument is that Barroso grossly overstates the case, saying that the UK would have "zero" influence if it voted to leave the EU, which could never be true. He then goes on to tell us that Britain could not negotiate with the US and China "on an equal footing" on its own, despite the fact that both Switzerland and Iceland have clinched trade deals with China, when the EU has not.
But the real hard edge is Barroso's comment that free movement of people within the EU was an "essential" principle that could not be changed.
Asked about Mr Cameron's renegotiation plans, Mr Barroso said there was willingness in the EU to discuss benefit fraud and sham marriages, but an "arbitrary cap" on migration would "not be in conformity with European rules".
Barroso said 1.4 million Britons lived elsewhere in the EU and it was a "matter of fairness" that other EU citizens had the same rights. He then criticised comments Hammond last week that Britain was "lighting a fire under the European Union" with the proposed referendum.
In a clear snub, Barroso said of Hammond, "I'm told the foreign secretary was the former minister of defence. I think this reference to fire and weapons is more appropriate for defence than foreign secretary", adding, "It is very important to have a positive tone regarding these issues between Britain and the EU".
Even though Mr Cameron is trying hard
to keep the prospects of renegotiation alive, gradually his options are being closed down, leaving his nowhere to go. If he actually believes what he is saying, he must be the only man left alive in Britain who thinks he can successfully negotiate a deal with Brussels.
Even the might Matthew Parris
is getting sick of it, arguing that Cameron should take on the Ukipites full frontal.
"Why can't we, and why can't the Conservative party, understand that this goes a long way to explaining opinion polls and headlines about 'popular fury' over 'immigration and Europe'? Why haven't our mainstream politicians the brains or moral courage to push back against the lies and the nonsense? ", he writes.
With the Independent
also calling for a more robust approach to immigration, there is something of a backlash building up.
This we discussed at Rotherham. Cameron is playing it all wrong. There is a great deal that could be done to curb immigration, from inside and outside the EU. If the prime minister was better advised, and in a mood to listen, he would be focusing on the measures available to him, and thus avoid being accused of being "Ukip-lite", just as Ukip is being accused of being "BNP-lite".
What Cameron should not be doing is trying to pretend he can do a deal with the EU. Too many people know he can't, and now we have Mr Barroso out in the open calling his bluff.
The good thing here is that, with his renegotiation strategy in tatters, if Cameron went with what he's got to the public, even Farage would be hard put to lose the referendum for us.
Sunday 19 October 2014
We had an extremely good meeting in Rotherham yesterday, with some good, high quality people – most of them UKIP members. That reminds me of why I joined UKIP in the first place, and then how much the party has been let down by its current leadership.
I will write further about the meeting, organised by local UKIP member John Wilkinson, but first need to address one particular issue pointed up earlier on this blog and now raised by Deutsche Welle as representing a: "Bitter defeat for EU opponents in the European Parliament".
This was the collapse of Farage's "Europe of Freedom and Direct Democracy" (EFDD) group, a "defeat" that is in fact extremely serious for UKIP in general, and Mr Farage in particular. And while it has been given some coverage in the British media, such as here in the BBC, the event hasn't had a fraction of the coverage that it should have received.
One suspects that some of the reason for this is that the media is completely missing is the scale of the defeat, with the BBC, for instance, wrongly pointing up that the groups are (only) paid €59.8m (£48m) from the European Parliament Budget.
This they are taking from Chapter 4 of the budget (p.77), which covers "secretarial, administrative and operational expenditure", plus expenditure on "political and information activities conducted in connection with the Union's political activities".
However, they haven't realised that the group staff are paid from a different budget line, covered on p.17 over the staff budget of €936 million, and not separately identified. You can, though, see from page 72 that just over 1,000 staff members are employed by the EP on behalf of the groups, without the specific sum being identified.
This equates to roughly 1.5 members of staff to every MEP. For technical reasons, it actually amounts to slightly more, which means that the UKIP delegation gets about 40 extra staff working for them in Brussels, off the books so to speak, paid for out of the European Parliament budget.
There are also other budget lines which incorporate expenditure by political groups (for instance, see 3.042 on p.55) and when you add these and the staff costs in, the expenditure picture is very different from that portrayed by the BBC and other media.
As the European Parliament itself points out (and it should know), some six percent of the EP budget of € 1,756 billion is allocated for political group activities. This works out at roughly €105 million a year, or a "dowry" of €140,000 per MEP. For the five years of the coming parliamentary term, that means that UKIP – with its 24 MEPs – was due to get about €17 million (£13 million) in cash and kind.
As independent members, known in EP jargon as "non-inscrits" (NIs), they lose the group staff, and only have a small administrative staff to rely on, serving the whole NI – currently just over 50 MEPs. These are provided by the parliament. The 40 or so political staff that UKIP had working for them are lost (although a small number may be re-employed on administrative duties).
To each of the NI MEPs, the residual budget is allocated individually, about €43,000 each, an effective loss of about €100,000 per MEP. Added up over the term, that means Farage's UKIP loses about €12 million, and Farage loses control over what was once a central budget. Each of the MEPs become responsible for spending their own budgets.
This loss, of course, is on top of the privileges afforded to Farage himself, as president of the group: the personal chauffeur-driven limousine; the spacious office suite; membership of the Conference of Presidents; his front-row seat in the EP; and the first bite at the cherry when it comes to speaking allocations.
These visible losses, though, pale into insignificance when it comes to the financial loss. It was group money in 1999 that kept the show on the road, an invisible dowry over which the national party had no control and scarcely knew existed.
Basically, within the constraints of the EU rules, the group money was in the gift of the group president, which for this session would have given Farage €12-million-worth of leverage which he has now lost. Apart from weakening UKIP, it considerable weakens Farage's own personal power base, as he loses all that taxpayer-funded patronage.
Why the group collapsed is another story, but one factor has been Farage's own behaviour. Angered by his posturing (even if it plays well to the domestic audience), the "colleagues" have been progressively tightening the group rules, and in such a way as quite obviously to discriminate against Farage's group. Now it has collapsed, you might say that this is Van Rompuy's revenge.
It didn't have to be that way. When I joined the parliament in 1999 as group staff, I proposed that we should avoid fouling the nest in Brussels. Our battle was not with the "colleagues" but with our own government. Even if we were disliked, I averred, we should at least be respected.
That line held until I left in 2003, but relations between UKIP and the EP have since deteriorated – largely because of a number of high profile YouTube videos. It is a matter of judgement as to whether they were worth it, but at least we are now able to put a price tag on them - €12 million.
And, with Farage now consigned to the back of the hall, and his allocation of speaking time limited to such riveting subjects as the reform of the comitology system, and the CAP vegetable regime (the sort of thing we were getting in the 1999 term), his YouTube days are probably over.
It was good while it lasted. But UKIP members may now wonder whether they have been well-served. Effectively, Farage has cost his own party €12 million.
Sunday 19 October 2014
Who are potentially the most expensive man and woman in Britain, asks Booker, due over the next 36 years to cost this country £1.3 trillion, equivalent to our entire, ever-swelling National Debt?
The man is Ed Miliband, who in 2008 pushed through the final version of the Climate Change Act. It made us the only country in the world legally committed between now and 2050 to cutting our emissions of CO2 by a staggering 80 percent.
Even then, the Government projected that this would cost us up to £734 billion. The latest figures from the EU and the International Energy Agency suggest that, for Britain to reach this target, it would now cost even more: £1,300 billion.
Less well known, however, is the extraordinary story of how this most expensive Act ever put on the statute book originated in the first place. Google "Bryony Worthington" with "YouTube" and you will see the video of a young climate activist, now known as Baroness Worthington, describing how she first conceived the idea of such a policy when she was campaigns director on climate change for Friends of the Earth.
After David Cameron became Tory leader in 2005, bent on "remaking" his party, she put to him that he should adopt her proposal. She describes how, when David Miliband became environment secretary, desperate not to be "out-greened" by the Tories, he called on her to head a small team in his ministry tasked with urgently drafting such a Bill.
When, in 2008, brother Ed took over as head of the new Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC), he raised the emissions-cut target from 60 to 80 percent, at almost double the cost.
The Bill passed the Commons by 463 votes to three, after a debate in which not a single MP asked how such an ambitious target could in practice be achieved without destroying virtually our entire economy.
But this is what at last one senior politician, Owen Paterson, dared to question in his lecture last week to the Global Warming Policy Foundation. Thanks to advance coverage given to his speech in last week’s Sunday Telegraph, with its front-page headline "Let’s rip up the Climate Change Act", Mr Paterson has at last set off a proper debate on our energy future – one that is years overdue.
As Booker wrote last week, Paterson was able, backed by a mountain of expert research, to show how DECC's current policy, outlined in its "2050 Pathway Analysis" – and amplified by similar statements from the European Commission – is pure make-believe.
It alone might merit front-page headlines: that, within 16 years, DECC seriously contemplates closing down all our existing energy supplies from the nasty, CO2-emitting fossil fuels that currently supply 70 percent of our electricity. Out will go all cooking and central heating by gas. Almost everything, including our transport system, will have to be powered by electricity, for which we will, by 2050, need twice as much as we currently use.
This will largely be supplied by 17 times as many wind turbines as we already have, and up to 12 more monster nuclear power plants like the one proposed in Somerset, which may not produce a watt of electricity within 10 years.
What has been striking about the outraged response from green zealots to Paterson's speech is how they did not begin to understand his practical proposals for how an otherwise inevitable disaster can be averted.
There was, of course, a knee-jerk howl of derision from the likes of Lord Stern and Lord Deben, along with a blizzard of personal abuse across the Twittersphere. But the more thoughtful among them, such as the BBC's Roger Harrabin, tried instead to ride with the punch, by claiming that DECC was already looking at all the parts of Paterson's "Plan B" for keeping our lights on.
So there was really nothing new about what he was saying, despite his devastating evidence showing how DECC's current strategy, like the Climate Change Act itself, cannot possibly work.
The zealots simply cannot grasp how our energy future might be transformed by "combined heat and power", ending the waste of almost half the energy we use to create electricity. Or how hundreds of small, wholly safe nuclear reactors could provide us with a huge new source of both electricity and heat within a decade or so. Or how sophisticated "demand management" technology could shave another huge chunk off our electricity needs, without us even noticing.
And all this could achieve a far greater cut in our carbon emissions (for what that is worth) than we can hope for under DECC's unworkable policy.
When Mr Paterson's radical proposals are properly examined, unblinkered by green make-believe, it will be seen that he has at last launched the properly informed national debate that alone might save our economy from a barely imaginable catastrophe.
Saturday 18 October 2014
The thing that a lot of commenters here and elsewhere seem to forget – or not realise – is that energy policy is primarily about politics. That is not too simplistic. The technicalities are vitally important, but without a sound political framework, nothing coherent is ever going to be achieved.
This is where Charles Moore in today's Telegraph is particularly astute, in identifying the politics as the driver of the mess that currently passes as our energy policy.
He also notes that there is essentially no difference between the three main Westminster parties, which does leave Ukip out on its own, albeit with nothing approaching a coherent replacement policy. All they can offer is to tear down the Climate Change Act and hanker after multi-fuel electricity generation that does not include renewables.
Moore's observations take us to a refusal of the political parties to address the increasingly visible failure of their policies, with no one wanting to discuss the causes. Owen Paterson, then the environment secretary, was the only minister who dared raise doubts. He annoyed what he calls the "green blob". David Cameron duly sacked him this summer.
In the Global Warming Policy Foundation lecture on Wednesday, Mr Paterson said of wind farms that "this paltry supply of onshore wind, nowhere near enough to hit the 2050 targets, has devastated landscapes, blighted views, divided communities, killed eagles…".
When this was quoted on the BBC News, he was saying no more than millions of ordinary people have been saying for years. Yet it was very striking to hear it in public, because no other elected person charged with these responsibilities had said anything like this before.
It would have been better still if the BBC had completed the Paterson sentence. He went on to say that wind turbines had devastated 'the very wilderness that the 'green blob' claims to love, with new access tracks cut deep into peat, boosted production of carbon-intensive cement, and driven up fuel poverty, while richly rewarding landowners".
This, Mr Paterson also said, is "the single most regressive policy we have seen in this country since the Sheriff of Nottingham". He is right, says Moore, and because his party, and the Liberal Democrats, and Labour, have all agreed to the sheriff's extortions, they are letting Nigel Farage play Robin Hood. As the theme song of the TV version used to say, "He cleared up all the trouble on the English country scene, and still found plenty of time to sing".
Readers here do not need to reharse Mr Paterson's arguments, but it can never be said too many times that the current energy policy is unattainable – and at a cost of £1.3 trillion, which is roughly the size of the national debt.
So obviously, says Moore, Mr Paterson is right to say that we should invoke the clause in the Climate Change Act which allows for its suspension. But, despite his notable trenchancy, Moore thinks he is being quite cautious about what is really happening.
Even if Britain and the whole of the EU were to stick to our emissions targets (which we surely won't), and to hit them (which, actually, we can't), we would still not come anywhere close to what we are told is needed to save the planet. This is for a very simple reason: the rest of the world won’t do it.
Last year, carbon emissions per head in China exceeded those of Britain for the first time, and China has more than 20 times as many heads as we do. The EU is responsible for less than 10 percent of global emissions, so when we set our targets we knew – and said – that we were in no position to stop global warming. The point was to set a lead which others would follow.
They haven't. Since the debacle of the Copenhagen Summit of 2009 when the developed world failed to persuade the developing one to join our saintly masochism, this has been obvious. There is a "second commitment period" of the process started by the Kyoto Protocol. New Zealand has withdrawn from it. Canada has repudiated Kyoto altogether.
The only two non-European countries still in the second period are Kazakhstan and Australia, and Australia is now reviewing its commitment. Europe's gesture has proved futile, and is getting ever more expensive, in taxes, bills and jobs. Even the European Commission has spotted this, and is beginning to tiptoe away from the policy.
But not the British parties and policy elites. In August 1914, Sir Edward Grey famously said, "The lamps are going out all over Europe". He was speaking of the war we had inflicted on ourselves. A century later, we are threatening to put them out again, with different motives, but equal folly. Everywhere else, the lamps are staying on.
Isn't it rather extraordinary, Moore concludes, that no mainstream party has dared to point any of this out? Don't they know there's an election on? Is it surprising that voters think: "They're all the same?"
Saturday 18 October 2014
There is a certain amount of excitement about the resurrection of the Referendum Bill, which successfully completed its second reading yesterday. However, if one recalls the first attempt, we are reminded that the Bill is Mr Cameron's attempt to by-pass the collalition block, and add legislative clothes to his referendum promise.
One is wearied by these games, but at least this attempt has the merit of prompting a "hostile speech" from our now foreign secreaty, Philip Hammond, leading the Guardian to suggest it was "one of the most hostile speeches by a British cabinet minister about the EU".
The Conservative party is "lighting a fire" under the European Union by pledging to hold an in/out referendum on British membership by the end of 2017, Hammond says, trying to tell us that it was a "very powerful weapon in our armoury" as the prime minister, David Cameron sought to renegotiate the UK's membership terms.
This appears to put the Conservative strategy in perspective – Cameon wants the referendum threat as "leverage" to get a better (or any) deal out of the "colleagues". This he needs to save face, and put up some sort of show which stands him up as a euro-basher.
It is all so predicatable that it becomes boring. We need to cut to the chase, getting the election out of the way and a referendum on the stocks – or not. Then Mr Cameron can go through his little charade of a pretend negotiation, and we can get on with it.
Meanwhile, we are told that Downing Street is not denying that Michael Gove, the chief whip, has suggested to Tory MPs that the government might be willing to set aside the European arrest warrant. Britain is due to opt out of 133 EU justice and home affairs issues before immediately opting back into 35 of the measures, including the European arrest warrant, by 1 December.
A vote is due to be held to approve the changes. But Gove has been told by his back bench that Mr Cameron will face a rebellion if his MPs are asked to approve continued British participation in the European Arrest Warrant (EAW).
These are more games. If we don't have the EAW then we go without a procedure and have to adopt another, which means the government has to pull a rabbit out of the hat in order to get wanted criminals back here.
All of this, of course, is tied in with the opt-ins that we had a look at a little while ago - another piece of theatre that we have to put up, because our government can't get to grips with the issues.
Hammond, though, doesn't cut it. He told the Commons that "radical change" would have to be introduced to persuade him to support continued EU membership. "No change is not an option", he says. "The status quo in Europe is not in Britain's interests, or in the interests of anyone in Europe".
Thus we get the dreary litany. "What most of us want to see is a radically reformed Europe", he says. This is:
… a Europe where powers flow from Brussels back to the nations, not the other way round; a Europe of cooperating nations, not a European superstate; a Europe of open markets and free trade arrangements with the world beyond; a Europe that can out-compete the best in the world, without red tape and regulation weighing it down. But most of all we want to see a Europe on which the British people have had their say.
I can't even be bothered to make the usual joke about pigs lining up on the runway at Heathrow. This was not a "hostile speech" – it was the usual masquerade, dressed up to look as if the Conservatives are going somewhere. I wish they'd stop the pretence and get on with it. The games are convincing no one.