Thursday, October 03, 2013

Climate, Fracking, Energy and Evidence

A week or two ago a local UKIP supporter highlighted the video below showing the changing face of the political map of Europe over the last 1,000 years. He noted how the UK had remained relatively stable over that period and that the chaos on mainland Europe was another reason for the UK to leave the European Union. Two days later a local Green supporter linked to exactly the same video saying this is why we should remain in the EU.

What does that tell you? It tells me that all evidence is cold and doesn’t give you any clue as to what it actually means. We have to interpret it and the process of interpretation, by definition, has to pass through the filter of the interpreter’s internal belief system, their biases and prejudices, which in turn have been socialised by the community they associate with and what they precieve to be accepted conventional wisdom. These forces are stronger is some than others, Luke.

This is why people like Copernicus and Galileo had such a difficult time convincing the establishment of mainland Europe that their view of the heavens was somewhat incorrect - and why the BBC should not scrap The Sky at Night. And we here in good old blighty would not want such wacky ideas imposed upon us by those europeans, would we?

So, lets have a review of where we are today ….

Many of you will have seen news about the latest IPCC report released last week. It's the most authoritative report on climate change ever written and it's several thousand pages long - but you don't need to read the whole thing to get to grips with it.

Watch the BBC's video, the IPCC in 90 seconds or have a look at the Carbon Brief's handy summary.

Meanwhile both the Liberal Democrats and UKIP turn to Fracking, the latter branding the Greens as “eco-freaks”. Here’s an eco- freak, Danny Bates, freaking out with 10 myths about Fracking.

Back on Climate George Osborne doesn’t want the UK to be at the forefront of tackling Climate Change. Er, George doesn’t appear to have noticed that we ain’t. Those ‘orrible EU peeps are way ahead of us. Jean Lambert, an MEP and eco-freak, slams his boss Cameron over claims to be er, Green, ie an eco-freak. And the Green Party urge government to adopt Contraction and Convergance – the climate doesn’t stop at UK border control. However, Owen Paterson thinks Global Warming will be good for us – not if we mess up the Gulf Stream it won’t, mate.

Onto energy and Ed Miliband wants to freeze energy prices for two years if he wins the general election in 2015 and Luciana Berger says it goes much further than that. Here’s an analysis by Flesh is Grass.

So where does that leave us in making up our minds? Are we all victims of our own biases? The only advice I can give is to beware the troofers and climate sceptics who use arguments against wind energy like “you can’t store electricity”. That statement is 100% absolutely true but totally meaningless. It’s like saying you can’t store fire. We don’t - we store fuel from which we can make fire just the same as we store energy from which we generate electricity. We can also do it backwards – we can use excess electricity and store it as energy. It’s O’ level physics not rocket science.


  1. Surely the greatest truth in all this is that we are each guided by our own prejudices, and everybody else is barmy.

    1. As I alluded in the above this is true depending on how strong the force is, my young Padawan.

      It’s certainly true for the Psychotics, like my local anti-B21 NHW coordinator, who is a lost cause.

      The rest of us break down into two groups:

      Those who seek out like minded others for reassurance, comfort and confirmation of their own views. These are often described as tribal or party drones.

      Those who are prepared to risk challenge to their views by being part of an open group like B21 or more to the point understand the scientific process.

    2. Did said UKIP supporter point out that Britain was fighting in most of the wars on mainland Europe through out this time?

      We can't change our geography. I'd rather be the EU making decisions that affect us, than like Norway where they can't decide or vote on huge economic decisions that affect their economy

    3. Did said UKIP supporter mention that Britain has been involved in most of those wars and instability on the continent in the last 1000 years?

      We can't change our geography. If we stay in we remain a key decision maker in the EU.

      If we leave we are still hugely affected by decisions the EU makes. We just won't be able to negotiate or vote on any of them

  2. I notice on the map that Blackpool and the Lake District are now Scots or do my glasses need changing ?
    Who is this brave NHW person who challenges the might of B21?

    1. A crank posing as an intellectual.

    2. Julie b, if you've been wearing the same glasses for 1300 years, a visit to Specsavers might be in order ...

      The map is a snapshot of Europe around the year 720 - note the Holy Roman Empire in the middle!

      Unfortunately, B21 has chosen to show a clip from the version without dates although, to be fair, the dates are largely obscured on the dated version ...

      Click on the play button to run through the sequence - it ends in 2006 - or follow this link for the version with dates:

  3. The video is interesting but the absence of a timeline makes it quite opaque. I was watching for Ireland to be divided so I would know I was in the 20th Century.

    No useful conclusions about our membership of the EU can be gained from this, either for against. On the one hand , the section in the middle has been incredibly unstable; on the other, there have been no internecine wars between major powers in Europe since 1945.

    I believe most people in Britain would have no issues with the EU were it not for two factors: (1) the apparent imposition of EU rulings which appear nonsensical to the ordinary person and (2) the open door policy which allows people from all over the EU to come to Britain (and France, and Germany) to undercut our hard fought for minimum wage legislation and to beg or otherwise in our streets.

    1. Dear Patsy

      Can you please specify which are the nonsensical EU rulings that have been imposed upon us? I really do want to know .

      And can you please differentiate between the open door policy which allows foreign investors to buy up 85% of new builds in London, depriving your chidren of the chance of an affordable home here , and that which allows the exploitation of cheap foreign labour imports to undercut our own workers as opposed to those who are prepared to actually come here and work for shit wages in our NHS etc….?

    2. Dear B21

      You blog so graphically after what used to be regarded as closing time!

  4. With pleasure, Alan, and I would remind you that sarcasm has been described as the lowest form of wit. However, as you posted your question late at night, I will forgive you as you were probably extremely tired, and perhaps emotional too.

    An example from my own experience as a Governor of a school which occasionally hires coaches to take pupils on school trips: a few years ago the EU introduced a directive requiring all private coach companies to provide booster seats for the use of children up to the age of 12. UK coach companies immediately, under threat of the withdrawal of their licence, spent large sums on booster seats. Did the French enforce the directive? No, they didn't, they had more sense. I know because every year the school organises a trip to the battlefields of WW1 and there are never any booster seats available on French coaches. The ruling was nonsensical because (a) children come in all sizes and it would have made more sense to use height rather than age to decide whether a booster seat would improve safety, and (b) because the ruling applied only to private coaches, not to buses.

    As for your second point: yes, I can differentiate between the movement of capital and the movement of people and I would have thought that, with your high level of intelligence, you woulld not have needed me to explain it to you.

    The purchase of assets by foreign investors cannot be prevented as the buyer simply sets up a nominee company and buys through that. In any case I can't see that the acquisition of multimillion pound houses in Regents Park or office blocks in the City by foreign investors impacts hugely at the bottom of the food chain, unless you suspect that they are also buying one-bedroom flats in places like Ilford. The government's new policy of underwriting the deposits of first time buyers is much more likely to increase prices at that level.

    As to the movement of people: the issue that the UK and other Western European countries face is the arrival of numbers of people who work in the black economy, thus undermining employment legislation that the working clases have struggled for decades, through their Trades Unions, to secure, and accessing public services which those same working class people have fought to establish and for which they have paid all their working lives, as, mostly, their parents have done before them. And don't bother to tell me that British people do it too, that is sophistry.

    You may consider that the NHS pays shit wages but they are governed by UK employment legislation, including the minimum wage, and the people working for those shit wages are paying NI which means they contribute to the healthcare and education of their families.

    Whatever your - or my - opinion of immigration, this has become a major issue for Western Europe and the proof, if any were needed, is that alll three major parties in the UK are playing catchup in trying to address it.

    I wonder what would happen if thousands of accountants, lawyers and IT experts arrived here from Eastern Europe and began undercutting middle class jobs. I suspect there would be an outcry just the same, except we would't be able to dismiss it as coming from uneducated and ignorant people.

    If you are happy with the immigration situation as it now stands, I suggest that you are in a minority, especially among working class people in Western Europe.

    1. Hello Patsy, always a pleasure to hear from you.

      OK, putting aside all governments predisposition for “one size fits all” policies, in this case age and size, it appears to me that what you are complaining about is not that the EU “imposed” this particular directive but that our elected UK government chose to adopt it and enforce it probably with a view to increase UK “economic growth” to mask their own incompetence.

      On housing: “Paul Hackett, the director of the Smith Institute, estimates that overseas buyers capture around 85% of new-builds and 38% of re-sales, with many purchasing property as an investment rather than a home to live in.”

      May I also remind you that the assistance to homebuyers that working class people like you and I benefited from, tax relief on mortgage interest, was abandoned as a “middle class perk”.

      We have always had a black economy, it’s got nothing to do with migrants. It is a function of purchasers not wishing to pay the going rate (and tax) and risking shoddy workmanship or a lack of hygiene in cooked food outlets. This is not sophistry, it is fact. It is not that British people also do it that is the point, it is that British people are the ones who are creating the demand.

      Onto wages in the NHS etc. True they are subject to UK employment legislation and the “minimum wage”. What they are not subject to is a “living wage”. This is a product of the electorate refusing to elect a government who are prepared to raise taxes in order to do so. It is the people who are here legally, who do not wish to pay a proper rate for the services they receive, and who do not wish to do those jobs themselves, who are responsible for governments having no other option but to encourage people from abroad to come here and fill those gaps.

      Oh, for the day when there are 2000 applicants for every top City Banker job …

      And finally, it is not a question of being happy, or not, with the immigration situation as it now stands. It is a question of understanding the dynamics before proposing any solution or introducing legislation.

  5. Good evening Alan, there is nobody I would rather have an online debate with, even if we do bore everybody else to tears.

    1. Our government wouldn't have had to impose the directive if the EU hadn't issued it in the first place.

    2. What proportion of the 85% of new builds is residential property and what proportion is commercial?

    3. What is the agenda of the Smith Institute?

    4. I was quite clear about the black economy. I know only too well about the black economy. My point is that the numbers engaging in it have gone up as a result of immigration, both legal and illegal, and that the country cannot continue to offer universal public services to an increasing number of people who wish to access it when the numbers contributing to it are not growing in the same proportion. It is bad enough that we baby boomers are going to become an increasing burden.

    5. The Living Wage is an ongoing discussion and you cannot use it to deflect attention from the fact that NHS employees are protected by UK employment legislation as it currently stands and contribute through their NI contributions to the very service in which they are employed. If the government wanted to stop bringing people into the country to work at cut price ratesd, then they would make it far more difficult for people to access unemployment benefit when there are jobs out there which they are well able, albeit unwilling, to do. Are you really suggesting that people who are here legally should be allowed to avoid all work simply because they do not wish to do certain types of work? In reality, the government is happy to allow foreign workers into the country as they drive wages down, which suits the government struggling to pay for public services, and it suits the big corporations who are the true controllers of the economy.

    7. I understand the dynamics only too well. History is littered with examples of how populations turn violently on minorities whenever times get tough.

    8. I have neither proposed a solution nor demanded the introduction of legislation. That is for the government. I simply wish to point out that if the situation continues, there is a risk of trouble. At the very least, many people will be tempted to vote for UKIP only to discover that it is a one trick pony with no real policies beyond the withdrawal of the UK from the EU.

    And finally: there would be 2000 applicants for every top City Banker job if there were 2000 people able to do the job. Could you? I couldn't.

    1. Hi Patsy, it’s getting late and I’ve had more than a few beers, beware the witching hour …

      1. Well yes, but. Our governments are pretty nifty when it comes to not doing EU things they don’t like or don’t want to. And they are also pretty good at dreaming up their own daft and wacky rules. That the UK government chose to implement a proposal which originated in the EU is not an excuse to bash the EU. Let’s put the blame firmly where it lies, Number 11.

      2. We are talking residential development here.

      3. I have no idea but they are not on their own. Here’s a report from someone you have met. The figures vary depending on who you listen to but they are all pretty high.

      4. If the numbers engaging in the black economy have gone up a) how do we know, and b) why haven’t the authorities done anything about it? Because it suits them, not you or me, them. One of the reasons Mrs T shifted taxation from income to spending was to capture some of the black economy money when it re-enters the white economy. Are we talking here about wider public services like refuse collection, amenities and road maintenance or just welfare benefits and healthcare or education?

      5. Yes, but if they cannot afford anywhere to live - which takes us back to points 2 & 3. If they claim housing benefit that does not benefit them - it’s the investor landlord who pockets the money. So the taxpayer is effectively subsidising landlords at the expense of paying people a decent living wage in the first place. It’s the same with working tax credit. The taxpayer is subsidising employers who pay crap wages instead of paying at the till. Our economy is nuts.

      6. There is no 6, where did it go? Has it been taken "Prisoner"?

      7. Very true, but why are times so tough? Is it the fault of immigrants, legal or illegal, or does the problem lie with the vested interests of big corporations as you allude to in point 5?

      8. OK and agreed. But if there is a risk of trouble we need to be able to point the finger at the real culprits, see point 7.

      And finally, our present lot of Bankers (checks spelling) seem to be quite good at protecting their own backsides and sponging off the taxpayer (bailed out by the welfare safety net) without actually providing any benefit to the real economy. We have effectively privatised profit and nationalised risk.

  6. Thank you Alan, and your powers of reasoning appear to be unaffected by alcohol.

    1 I agree, but do we really need another layer of bureaucracy adding to the already seemingly petty and pointless initiatives dreamt up by our own government? I don't particulary wish the UK to leave the EU,but I wish the EU would busy itself with what it was set up to do, i.e. to create a fair and effective free trade area, thereby making the asset exchange so important that countries cannot contemplate going to war, and stop trying to run every member state as if it were that state's sovereign government.

    2 We must remind ourselves that London is not the UK. Inevitably foreign investors will buy property in London, it is after all a major capital city and will, and probably always has, attracted foreign capital. I agree that it is an unhappy situation, but if people are driven elsewhere by the lack of affordability, then eventually prices and rentals will ease off. There is no counter to the laws of supply and demand, but we seem to have reached a mindset by which everybody should be able to live wherever they choose, regardless of whether or not they can afford it. I went to school in Islington which was a dump in the 1950's but the Georgian houses which were let for a few shilling a week per room are now worth millions. However when they were built in the 18th Century the type of people who lived there in the 50's would have been excluded. Areas change and become unaffordable for most people, then they decline and prices come down, then they are regenerated and become unaffordable again.

    3 Of course there has always been a black economy and always will be until all taxes of all kinds are abolished, in which case I will go out and buy a gun. By its very nature it is almost impossible to put a figure to it. What seems to be happening is that the culture is changing so that more and more people, many of them from other countries, are offering to work for cash in hand and there is no shame in making or accepting such an offer. My father-in-law would never employ a workman who gave a different price for cash. That now seems a ridiculous attitude, because people do not realise that by employing a person who pays no tax, they are effectively taking his tax payments out of their own pockets, since the government has to increase the tax rates for those who do pay to make up for those who don't.

    5. Totally agree, but once again the laws of supply and demand and the free movement of capital are the issue.

    6. Don't know what happened - probably moved a point around and forgot to change the numbering. Doesn't help that when typing a reply I can only see four lines at a time.

    7. No, plainly we agree that the problem is not immigrants but the vested interests of big corporation operating with the collusion of national governemts, but we are dealing with perception here and not reality. Ordinary people do no see the multinationals in action but they do see foreigners coming into their communities, being allocated social housing, working for wages which undercut the minimum wage, and there is plenty of fuel there for resentment. Nobody believes that ordinary Jewish people in 30's Germany were responsible for the economic situation (in fact most of us now blame the reparations imposed by the French) but many German people were led to believe that and we all know the result. Only a fool believes that the lessons of history are learnt and the mistakes of history are never repeated.

    8. Covered by 7?

    And finally: totally agree, except that I think a well run and ethical banking system does provide a benefit to the economy by matching lenders with borrowers and enabling the flow of money around the system. The problem is not the banking system itself but the dubious morals of those who rise to the top, not just in banking but in many professions.

    And Finally Finally, I think we agree about most issues in principle but differ in our attitudes to what can and can't be done. Just like the political parties.

    1. Well that seems to have that wrapped up. You really must come along to the pub sometime, Patsy. The quality of debate could do with an uplift ...

  7. Honours even Alan? I have the list of pub meetings and will try to get there soon.