|Once again, the BBC has allowed to pass unchallenged the impression that green power policy and renewable energy investment are behind the dramatic rise in British domestic energy prices.
Disappointingly, this has come from John Craven, whose accuracy is renowned.
However, on this occasion, he has allowed a blooper meme to consolidate in the public mind.
Here’s how Countryfile went yesterday evening :-
[ Countryfile, BBC One, 16 October 2011, 18:25. Part way through recording, starting at approximately 20 minutes 32 seconds. ]
[ Ellie Harrison ] Earlier in the programme we were looking at the expected huge rise in wind power across the UK. But in the race to create more of our energy this way, who will win and who is set to lose out ? Here’s John again.
[ John Craven ] Earlier, I discovered how the plan to put wind power at the heart of our future energy supply is creating a building boom in wind farms, both on land and out at sea. With billions being poured into wind power, and with it being at the centre of the Government’s strategy on renewables, the future seems certain. So who will the losers and winners be in this wind revolution ? The most obvious winner is the environment as less fossil fuels are burnt. But who else benefits ? Well, another clear winner is big business. Companies building the wind farms get a generous price for the electricity they produce. […]
|Some people may wonder why this YouTube starts halfway through a panel discussion from the Rebellious Media Conference at the weekend.
I certainly did. So I dug deep down in my appallingly scratchy notes and typed up a paraphrase of what Mark Curtis had said – the first speaker on the panel.
Warning – it’s not verbatim – it is interpolated from my illegible handwriting.
“War and the Media” : Panel Discussion : Rebellious Media Conference
[…Tests the audience’s general knowledge about the world’s longest serving dictators…] It’s “Our Man in Oman”, Sultan Qaboos bin Said Al-Said.
We don’t hear much about Oman. Why is that ? Let’s make two assumptions, first, that journalists can read, and second that they are following government sources.
For the UK Government, foreign policy is increasingly about oil. UK has been developing relationships with the Gulf States. There is a policy of deepening support for the most undemocratic states in the region.
Britain continues to project military power. You can see this in a hundred years of UK foreign policy – just read a few speeches.
This is not what we are being told in the media. Was this a war for oil ? Is the Pope a Catholic ?
In the media, the view [expressed] is that Britain is about supporting democracy in the Middle East.
This country has two special relationships. The special relationship with the United States [of America] is about consumerism and investment.
The other special relationship is much less [publicly] known [communicated]. Saudi Arabia since 1973 […]
A problem – Saudi Arabia is funding radical Islam.
And when Cameron […] in Bahrain…I wonder what they were talking about ?
When Britain provides arms, the media reports that it contradicts our policy of promoting democracy – to maintain them in power. We don’t have a policy of upholding democracy. They are our allies. We don’t want them to fall.
|On the first day of October, The Times of London newspaper ran an editorial urging investment in Britain’s infrastructure as a way to turn the economy around. Under the heading “Re-engineering the Economy”, they wrote “…What Britain needs now is thus not merely recovery from recession: it is a comprehensive re-engineering of the economy. At the heart of this process should be a more ambitious approach to infrastructure investment and more activism in industrial policy…”|
|The writer continued, “…Stepping up investment in infrastructure will not only stimulate the economy in the short-term, but will also increase the potential for future growth…” They did not speculate extensively on where the money for investment was to come from, but it was clear that they were supporting the UK Government’s new planning legislation, in which the presumption for development will apparently always take precedence over objections to development. The Times writer did not make a very clear distinction between sustainable and unsustainable development, and considered building a gargantuan new airport in the Thames Estuary as valid a project as new wind power research in Aberdeen.
The Times appears to have understood that Britain’s energy infrastructure needs some concentrated attention : “Renewing Britain’s energy infrastructure is one of the biggest challenges that the country faces but it also presents a huge opportunity.” Part of the Coalition Conservative-Liberal Democrat Government’s Electricity Market Reform seeks to apply state subsidies to low carbon generation, although rewarding power generated from existing nuclear power stations cannot possibly stimulate the new nuclear builds that the Government are keen on.
|Ed Miliband, leader of the British Labour Party, addressed the pre-party conference cameras in uncustomary casual attire, shelving his favourite suit, dazzlingly shiny tie and white shirt, you know, the one with the fat turned-over cuffs.
He sought to assure the nation that his one man mission is to relieve the financial pressure on the hardworking “squeezed middle” – fighting their corner against the profiteering railway companies and the moneygrabbing energy companies.
|The little snippet of BBC TV News 24 that I saw cut to the correspondent raising doubts about whether this cost-of-living protection strategy would have any impact on the wider economy – whether measures to control transport fares and energy bills would create economic growth.
What does this little word “growth” mean to the BBC TV reporter, I asked myself. Does he think it means increasing employment, increasing incomes ? And how could employment be increased ? By increasing the “consumption” of goods, energy, water, transportation and knowledge economy services ? And how can this “aggregate demand” consumption be increased, if unemployment remains high and incomes remain stagnant ?
Allowing the utility and transportation companies to raise their prices allows them to remain profitable and build their businesses, presumably creating employment as well as giving a return to investors – those who have their savings in pension funds – where the fund managers invest in energy and transport. Why not allow energy and transport prices to rise ? People can learn to spend more on these valuable services, surely ? Pensioners will have their funds protected, and energy and transport businesses will stay profitable, paying tax into the state.
China has launched Tiangong-1, the “Heavenly Palace“, and demonstrated an international co-operative republic of space in the making. Many technologists, scientists, engineers and military personnel in the major economies will have taken part in the coordination of this project.
Three things come to mind. First of all, China are going to experience a massive drain on domestic economic and social development in pursuit of its programme to set up a space station. Some could say this is deliberate, and that China has been convinced to spend on space to keep them from world economic dominance.
Next, the Chinese are obviously going to set up Earth monitoring systems, and are going to find out that everything the Americans have said about environment and climate, based on the data from the NASA, NOAA and UAH satellites and space occupation, is accurate; and wonder why they were convinced of the possibility of the alternative, and the necessity of going up there to find out for themselves.
And thirdly, the Chinese are going to find that they are drawn into the American and United Nations economic and military security programmes, monitoring common “enemies” – such as those breaking carbon treaties and constructing disallowed nuclear power stations.
So, not a space republic – not even a space race. More, a space replication, repeating what’s already been done before. A giant public works project that should keep the hardworking Chinese people proud for a moment.
Happy Birthday, China !
There was a time when I questioned what the mainstream media was for, and I had stopped reading newspapers and watching the television news.
But then came the day that I picked up a copy of The Guardian in Brussels, and I read George Monbiot. He really saved public authorship for me. I found it amazing that somebody would be permitted to communicate their counter-cultural political, social and environmental opinions so openly, so widely. I found hope in his voice – hope for truth, change and progress.
This week, that dream has died.
George Monbiot has made a public declaration of his financial “interests”, in an apparent attempt to encourage transparency. But this exercise has merely made it clear to me that he is totally compromised :-
He writes about political activism, but I don’t know any political activists who earn the kind of money he swallows down from The Guardian.
He’s within his rights to trade his skills for money : money earned by sales of The Guardian, paid for by people who want to read his political, social and environmental narratives; people who are often unpaid grassroots activists or lowly-paid charity staff.
What does this mean for progress, however ? The Guardian operation is clearly just noise : a mouthpiece for views that don’t get aired in other places, ideas that will never be allowed to gain power. Writers like George Monbiot advance their sales and keep the whole caravan rumbling along; but there’s no democratic movement being built by the hawking of its wares.
I remember a short train-interchange conversation I had with David Strahan, the energy writer, once. He seemed to be laughing at my noble altruism when I said I write for nothing. He said he needed to make a living. He lives in Hampstead (translation for Americans : “The Hamptons”).
Maybe I should change my approach. Maybe I should charge for some of the things I write, and put the money into a nationally-owned bank account at the Co-operative Bank, for the purposes of promoting solar power in districts of the UK where there is high unemployment and low incomes (unlike in Hampstead). I could call it the “Van Jones Appreciation Society”.
George Monbiot has capitulated to nuclear power public relations. His words do not increase the sum total of solar power in the UK, yet solar power can provide a much better part of the low carbon energy mix than nuclear power ever can. George Monbiot is not providing anything towards the solutions to climate change.
What’s wrong with this map ? Yes, the same old question. And the answer is again the same – the lack of geographical accuracy in the map reflects the lack of legal accuracy on the part of Israel in appropriating marine Natural Gas that belongs to the Palestinian Gaza Strip.
The map is taken from a new research paper by Brenda Shaffer, of the School of Political Sciences at the University of Haifa, which has been accepted for publication in Energy Policy at some point in the near future :-
“Energy Policy : Article in Press, Corrected Proof : doi:10.1016/j.enpol.2011.05.026 : Israel – New natural gas producer in the Mediterranean : Brenda Shaffer : Received 7 November 2010; accepted 16 May 2011. Available online 2 June 2011”
While everybody’s busy discussing ethics in the media, today’s been a great day to bury bad news – the shelving of the Energy Bill – and with it the Green Deal, the only hope Britain had left of economic recovery in the short-term.
And what of the Electricity Market Reform white paper and the National Policy Statements on energy ? Into the round wastepaper-bin-shaped recycling receptacle, possibly.
What next ? The revocation of the Climate Change Act and the dissolution of the Committee on Climate Change ?
I don’t know whether I should make overt political statements, but I think this news sugar ices the brioche, so I will : David Cameron’s “greenest government ever” has failed.
We need Van Jones, right here, right now.
The final part (I really hope it is the final part) of Adam Curtis’ trilogy on “Evil” Computers and “Devillish” Enviromentalists – “All Watched Over By Machines of Loving Grace” – a title drawn from a poem written by what would appear to be a madman – has now been uploaded to YouTube, allowing me to view it without taking part in the memory-eating public monitoring disappointment that is BBC iPlayer :-
Adam Curtis certainly reveals himself as a little monkeyish in this episode, throwing overarm and underhand javelins at “liberals” of all hues and cries, particularly environmental ones; and throwing in liberal references to primates wherever he can, seemingly to suggest that mankind has un- or de-evolved by adopting computing tools and studying the natural world.
I receive another letter from Iain Duncan Smith MP on vellum yellow with sickly pale green type. “Dear Mrs [sic] Abbess”, the letter reads, “Further to our previous correspondence regarding Stop Climate Chaos Big [sic] campaign, please find enclosed a reply from Chris Huhne, the Energy Secretary.” I asked Iain Duncan Smith in person for his own and personal support for a strong Energy Bill. What did he do ? Pass my letter on to the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC). I would have prefered a personal commitment to the issue, but, sadly, it was not to be.
The Rt Hon continued, “I hope you find his letter reassuring…” Reassuring ? What ? Am I some kind of emotionally incontinent complainant ? “…and helpful. However, please don’t hesitate to contact me again if I can be of further assistance.”
I was encouraged to take in the audiovisual presentation of “All Watched Over by Machines of Loving Grace”, wherein Adam Curtis demonstrates what appears to be a lack of understanding regarding failure in the financial markets. Most foundational year ecologists can tell you that systems are self-correcting, that virtual bubbles get popped, that hubris gets torn down, that over-population gets underfed. Rabbits and foxes. Owls and mice. George Monbiot’s “War On Slugs” because of missing hedgehogs and thrushes. It all depends on the natural resources available to feed the participants in the game. The global economy can only accelerate growth so much before it implodes. There are Limits to Growth. Curtis could be said to be expressing his suspicions that the fake “Knowledge Economy”, the Asian “Shock Doctrine” and the Property Crash were an artefact of a secret evil cabal formed from the vaguely impressed followers of Ayn Rand – but the rest of us all know that’s silly. She was a lovely, sensitive, principled woman, although she could have done with a little more kindness in her life to inspire altruism in her worldview.
They’ve never had it so cold. The British have just shivered through another long, centrally heated winter, and people are receiving enormous gas bills. Social campaigners and parliamentarians are rightly concerned that a clutch of harsher winters and rising energy costs could reverse gains made in tackling fuel poverty. The UK Government’s recent Budget announcement to reduce fuel poverty assistance payments is another blow to maintaining decent and warm homes for the vulnerable, the elderly and children. Proposals to cap the amount that energy companies can charge people in their bills is welcomed by some, but feared by others – as it could jeopardise energy company funding for the Green Deal – a free-to-the-consumer loan scheme for insulation and renewable energy installation. And there’s another problem waiting in the wings. Unlike the United States and Australia, the average British home doesn’t have air conditioning, and it costs real money to install it. If outsized summer heatwaves continue to pop up more frequently in Europe, UK households will face “cool poverty” in summer – a lack of cooling.