Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Incredible Greenie intrusiveness in Britain

Ministers want a slop bucket for food waste to be placed in every kitchen under their latest plan to generate green electricity. Instead of throwing out scraps, households would be required to store them separately for at least a week until they are collected by recycling teams. The rules will oblige some homes to sort rubbish into five containers - or potentially risk fines. Some councils already insist on separating glass, metal, paper and nonrecyclable refuse.

David Miliband, the environment secretary, is expected to unveil the scheme this week as part of the government's waste strategy. Food accounts for about a fifth of domestic waste and releases greenhouse gases when dumped in landfill. Now local authorities are set to be given the power to introduce schemes whereby methane generated by decomposing food will instead be trapped and used to generate electricity.

The proposal is part of a wider shake-up of Britain's waste collection. The government also plans to give councils the power to introduce "pay per throw" charges, levied according to the weight of rubbish. Households would not be charged for recycled waste. During the recent council elections there was a backlash in some areas against the scrapping of weekly collections. Fortnightly collections were blamed for causing infestations of vermin.

However, advocates of recycled kitchen waste insist that sealed containers will provide a hygienic solution. The idea was inspired by the government's waste body, Wrap, which found that homes across Britain waste a total of 3.3m tons of food a year. He is also likely to outline a plan for giant incinerators to burn more than 20% of rubbish that cannot be recycled. This too would be used to generate energy.


Yet another source of oil that Greenies oppose

You can't drill for it and you can't dig for it

The world's largest untapped oil reserves - in northern Canada - have become the new front line in the battle between environmentalists and the energy industry. Shell, a self-styled "green" energy company, is to invest billions of pounds in exploiting the Athabasca tar sands. Environmentalists say the tar sands are the world's dirtiest oil deposits and that refining them generates three to four times more CO2 than normal oil extraction.

However, Clive Mather, chief executive of Shell Canada, said rising demand and surging oil prices could not be resisted. "The deposits are huge, potentially even greater than in Saudi Arabia," he said. "The time is right to exploit them." The Athabasca tar sands are named after the river that runs through them. They contain about 1.7 trillion barrels of oil, of which 175 billion can be reached with existing technologies and another 135 billion could be tapped with technologies under development. The total of 310 billion barrels would give Canada the world's largest oil reserves - bigger than Saudi Arabia's 264 billion.

For western countries, especially America, Canada's oil is a chance to cut dependence on the Middle East, but the environmental costs could be huge. This is because tar sands comprise viscous bitumen and sand, a mixture that can currently only be extracted by digging it out, destroying the overlying forests. The Athabasca region has already been scarred with huge pits, some hundreds of feet deep. Alongside them lie vast ponds that hold the contaminated sands and other residues left after the oil is removed.

Shell, along with Suncor and Syncrude, the other main oil companies in the area, are developing a second extraction method where superheated steam is pumped into the ground to melt the oil so that it can be sucked out as a liquid. However, both processes, and the subsequent refining, require huge amounts of energy - equivalent to up to 30% of the energy contained in the extracted oil. Shell and its partners are extracting about 150,000 barrels of oil a day but now want a fivefold expansion to 770,000 barrels. A barrel is roughly equivalent to 35 gallons. Suncor and Syncrude are each planning similar expansions to about 500,000 barrels a day. This will require so much energy that the oil firms want to lay a pipeline across 800 miles of forest to tap into gas reserves in the Mackenzie river basin, in Canada's far north. There are also proposals to build a nuclear power station near the tar sands.

Such plans are causing alarm among environmental groups such as Britain's WWF. It has set up an office in Edmonton, the capital of Alberta, to campaign for restraints on development and improved monitoring. "Tar sands are the worst kind of source for oil," said James Leaton, WWF's policy adviser on gas and oil. "Extracting oil takes huge amounts of energy and devastates the local environment by destroying the forest and polluting rivers, lakes and the air."

Leaton and other environmentalists contrast Shell's operations in Canada with the firm's public relations, which portray it as the greenest of oil companies. Privately, however, Shell executives make clear that they are simply doing what oil companies are meant to do - extract oil. They say it is the job of governments to regulate the pace.

In Alberta little interference is likely from a state government with a powerful dislike of regulation. Rob Renner, Alberta's Conservative environment minister, said: "We believe the speed of development is best left to the free market." Under Renner the monitoring of industrial pollutants from the tar sands has largely been handed over to the oil companies. One result is that the Athabasca river, and Lake Athabasca, into which it flows, are widely believed to be heavily polluted. Medical staff at Fort Chipewyan, on the shores of the lake, have reported a surge in rare cancers.

The decision to exploit such oils is provoking a political backlash with Arnold Schwarzenegger, the governor of California, effectively banning them. He has issued a fuel standard demanding a cut in "carbon intensity", a measure of the CO2 generated in producing and using them. Ten other American states and the European Commission are considering similar measures.


Come, friendly bombs, fall on Brown's eco-towns

With his plans to erect zero-carbon homes in zero-car suburbs, Britain's Gordon Brown builds on the Blairites' small-minded approach to housing

Britain's prime-minister-in-waiting, Gordon Brown, has announced that one of his first big initiatives will be to build `eco-towns' - that is, areas with new houses that emit little or no carbon, where there is little need for people to drive cars, and where the most a home-owner aspires to is to watch his electricity meter to ensure he isn't using up too much of the nation's energy. For all his claims to be bringing something `new' to Britain, Brown's small-scale and small-minded attitude to housing seems entirely in keeping with his predecessor's.

In the closing months of the Blair decade, Haringey Council in north London pushed through a remarkable innovation in housing policy. It wanted to check which residents were failing to claim grants to buy fuel. It also wanted to check which homes in Haringey lie empty. First and foremost, however, it wanted to indict all the local homes it deemed wasteful of energy. So the Council hired a plane, equipped it with a thermal imaging camera, and posted colour-coded street maps of the offending energy wasters on the web (1).

In terms of the direct intrusion of the government on the British house, the Blair decade has been remarkable. A recent pamphlet by the Centre for Policy Studies, a Thatcherite think-tank, could point to no fewer than 266 ways in which the state is able to enter people's homes (2). Indeed, Labour government minister Ruth Kelly's Department for Communities and Local Government (CLG), successor to John Prescott's Office of the Deputy Prime Minister (1997-2006), plans further controls. If parliament agrees, all houses in England and Wales will only ever get sold once the state rates them for their carbon emissions - from a disgusting `not environmentally friendly', rating 1 to 20, to a mystical `very environmentally friendly', rating 82 to 100 (3).

Just what physical units these ratings consist of, the new Energy Performance Certificates (EPCs) do not say. At the end of the Blair years, the CLG invokes the 2006 Stern report on climate change, which was commissioned by Gordon Brown, whenever it can; yet when some more basic science is required, Ruth Kelly's empire is silent.

Still, in a striking, therapeutic reversal of the Roman, adult commandment caveat emptor, Blair's infantilising doctrine of consumer protection has come to housing. Anyone out to sell a house in England and Wales will have to pay the state upwards of 600 pounds, just so buyers can receive mandatory Home Information Packs (HIPs), each containing an EPC, the title deeds and details of local searches.

In an Orwellian 2007, the government wants at least 7,500 Home Inspectors to knock on millions of British doors. The country now needs to build no fewer than five million new homes in the next decade (4). Instead, Haringey's spy-in-the-sky and the CLG's HIP approaches to housing confirm that displacement activities have triumphed in the Blair years.....

New Labour puts houses out of reach, but in your face

As Brown was forced to concede in statements over the weekend, Blair has left Britain with a crisis not just of housing supply, but also of affordability. The price of an average house in the UK has risen from œ77,531 in 1997 to a likely œ200,000 in 2008 (6). According to the Halifax, residential property is too expensive for people to buy in 70 per cent of British towns.

Along with first-time buyers, public sector workers - above all, nurses and firefighters - face the greatest difficulties in affording a home. Yet it is on public sector workers that much of the British economy, especially in the north of England and the devolved regions, now depends. As for those public sector workers who are searching the south of England, in vain, for property cheap enough to suit their pockets, things are now so bad that the conservative Financial Times recently came out in favour of paying such ill-starred individuals higher wages. The FT ridiculed Blair's schemes of houses built for `key workers', noting: `Those who are not eligible - young or low-paid workers in the private sector, academics, or the many key workers who cannot get into one of the subsidised schemes - are left with fewer, more expensive properties to buy, while existing homeowners prosper as the subsidies drive up prices.' (7)

Existing homeowners - the middle classes - have indeed prospered from Blair's divisive housing policies; indeed that was always a deliberate strategy on his part. Similarly, there have been only incremental annual increases in the building of new dwellings. In 1997/8, just 180,566 new homes were built in Great Britain, only for the total to go almost straight down until 2001/2. By 2005/6, the pick-up was to just 196,307. That amounted to a rise in housing output of less than nine per cent over eight years (8).

New Labour and the propertied classes conspire with rural romantics, environmentalist reaction, narcissistic architects and authoritarian planners to make new homes harder and harder to build. Despite the standardised houses made by Georgians, Victorians and inter-war builders of semi-detached suburban properties, there are no plans to emulate the Toyota Motor Company and manufacture light, airy, personalised, œ100,000 homes that are ready to receive roofs in the space of six hours (12). Instead, a homeopathic approach dominates: the more house numbers are diluted within a solution of sustainable communities and `place making', the more effective housing policy is deemed to be (13)....

It was the architect Richard Rogers who, made official adviser to John Prescott early on in Blair's premiership, first suggested that nearness makes for neighbourliness (18). Nine years after Prescott put Rogers in charge of the Urban Task Force, this inane idea continues to dominate the New Labour imagination. The urge to make housing and cities `compact' has become so deep-seated that housing minister Yvette Cooper has been forced to blame local authorities for exceeding central government's already excessive targets for the percentage of houses built on brownfield sites (19).

Zero carbon, maximum regulation

In the old days, the Prescott doctrine of `sustainable communities' was mainly a pretentious protest against sprawl, the suburbs, the working class and all that. Yet as environmentalist opinion has grown more strident, so the nuances of housing sustainababble have changed. Government continues to plead for place-making and better home design; but the dogma that British homes must save the planet trumps everything.

Over his final winter, Blair saw the CLG embark on a series of `consultations' with interested parties. By March 2007, one of the weirdest of such exercises had closed, marked by the publication, over 90 pages, of Planning Policy Statement: Planning and Climate Change - Supplement to Planning Policy Statement 1 (20). It is worth getting a flavour of the CLG's housing Newspeak at the end of a decade of Blairite managerialism. In paragraph 1.14 of the consultation document, under the heading `Transitional Arrangements', we read the following:

`The need to take steps to mitigate and adapt to climate change is not a new requirement. RPBs and LPAs should already be taking steps to ensure that development plans contribute to global sustainability by addressing the causes and potential impacts of climate change. RPBs and LPAs may, however, come under pressure or themselves consider it necessary to halt plan-making so as to allow time to absorb the full implications of the policies in Planning and Climate Change, in its draft form as well as when finalised. The Department considers that such pressure should normally be resisted, but anticipates that RPBs will consider whether the content of emerging revisions of RSS, and LPAs similarly for DPDs, is consistent with the Key Planning Objectives set out in Planning and Climate Change.'

RPBs, anyone? They are regional planning bodies, and work with unelected regional development agencies (RDAs). LPAs? Local planning authorities, offshoots of local authorities. RSS? Regional spatial strategies in England, prepared by regional assemblies, which are only indirectly elected. DPDs? Development plan documents, prepared by LPAs.

This kind of planning gobbledegook, and the unelected appointees that go with it, is not an accident. Under Blair, the purpose of planning has become to stop new houses being built. For proof, look no further than paragraph 6 of the consultation document - that on Key Planning Objectives....

In the Blair terminus, fighting climate change comes before `enabling the provision' of new homes. Reducing the need to travel and especially to drive, and sustaining biodiversity, comes before technological innovation. Indeed, regional planning bodies will have to produce `regional trajectories' for the future carbon performance of new residential and commercial development (paragraph 1.7).....

Wherever, immediately after Blair, a major housing scheme is planned, at least 10 per cent of its energy supply will have to be `gained onsite and renewably and/or from a decentralised, renewable or low-carbon, energy supply' (paragraph 22). But now, since his weekend pronouncement, PM-in-waiting Gordon Brown has shown once again that a parsimonious, small-is-beautiful approach to society's burgeoning energy needs will always take precedence over large numbers of spacious homes that people can buy and own in full.

Much more here

Global warming "to be a joke in 5 years" says meteorologist

Climate change will be considered a joke in five years time, meteorologist Augie Auer told the annual meeting of Mid Canterbury Federated Farmers in Ashburton this week. Man's contribution to the greenhouse gases was so small we couldn't change the climate if we tried, he maintained. "We're all going to survive this. It's all going to be a joke in five years," he said.

A combination of misinterpreted and misguided science, media hype, and political spin had created the current hysteria and it was time to put a stop to it. "It is time to attack the myth of global warming," he said. Water vapour was responsible for 95 per cent of the greenhouse effect, an effect which was vital to keep the world warm, he explained. "If we didn't have the greenhouse effect the planet would be at minus 18 deg C but because we do have the greenhouse effect it is plus 15 deg C, all the time."

The other greenhouse gases: carbon dioxide, methane, nitrogen dioxide, and various others including CFCs, contributed only five per cent of the effect, carbon dioxide being by far the greatest contributor at 3.6 per cent. However, carbon dioxide as a result of man's activities was only 3.2 per cent of that, hence only 0.12 per cent of the greenhouse gases in total. Human-related methane, nitrogen dioxide and CFCs etc made similarly minuscule contributions to the effect: 0.066, 0.047 and 0.046 per cent respectively. "That ought to be the end of the argument, there and then," he said. "We couldn't do it (change the climate) even if we wanted to because water vapour dominates."

Yet the Greens continued to use phrases such as "The planet is groaning under the weight of CO2" and Government policies were about to hit industries such as farming, he warned. "The Greens are really going to go after you because you put out 49 per cent of the countries emissions. Does anybody ask 49 per cent of what? Does anybody know how small that number is? "It's become a witch-hunt; a Salem witch-hunt," he said.



An attempt to block the DVD release of The Great Global Warming Swindle displays contempt for free speech -- says this "Guardian" writer

A recent reaction to a climate change denial documentary broadcast on primetime TV displays contempt for free speech and political ineptitude. Bob Ward, a former press officer at the Royal Society, has published an open letter to Martin Durkin, maker of a documentary film broadcast recently on Channel 4 television that denies human influence on climate change. The letter is signed by a number of climate scientists and other academics with an interest in climate change.

I have no time for Durkin or his film, but take issue with Ward's letter, which, as reported by David Adam in the Guardian, demands that the DVD of Durkin's documentary be either withdrawn or corrected of its scientific errors. The open letter states that " ... it is in the public interest for adequate quality control to be exercised over information that is disseminated to the public to ensure that it does not include major misrepresentations of the scientific evidence and interpretations of it by researchers."

If Durkin's Great Global Warming Swindle DVD should be withdrawn or corrected, what about Al Gore's hyperbolic An Inconvenient Truth, soon to be distributed to all schools in England courtesy of Her Majesty's government? Ward complains that Wag TV, the production company responsible for Durkin's film, will not be bound by any Ofcom ruling against Channel 4. Channel 4 is restricted by a code of conduct when it comes to what may be broadcast, but Wag TV as an independent, commercial entity is free to distribute the DVD, and I'm not sure how it could be otherwise.

We are all of us surrounded by wild claims, ideological nonsense, misrepresentations and downright lies. But it is no business of the state, or assemblies of the scientific great and good, to pronounce on what may or may not be published. So challenge Durkin and show him up as the dissembler he undoubtedly is. But win the battle by force of argument. The data are on the side of those arguing that human beings are largely responsible for current climate change, and do not require backing up with bullying tactics.

Durkin is reported by Raphael Satter in the Seattle Post-Intelligencer to have acknowledged two scientific errors, and said that these will be corrected in the DVD. That is an astute move by Durkin, but Ward et al demand that all the errors be removed, and then declare that if this were done, the documentary would fall to pieces.

I'm not so sure about this. Durkin could remove all the blatant scientific errors, and still make a superficial case based on issues that are not clear-cut, and over which there remains some scholarly debate. Reality is ever thus, yet given the increasing predictive power of climate models backed by hard data, the majority view of climate change is the only credible one to take.

But try explaining that to a mass audience. It can and should be done, but not in the combative rhetorical style beloved of the media and a number of scientific protagonists. Ward is quoted in Satter's article as saying: "Free speech does not extend to misleading the public by making factually inaccurate statements. Somebody has to stand up for the public interest here."

Strong stuff, but very, very wrong. Free speech does indeed extend to coming out with any old rubbish, and people - even highly intelligent ones - frequently do. Others are free to point out factual errors, and in doing so attempt to convince the masses of the truth. Like Bob Ward, I complained to the broadcasting regulator about Durkin's documentary. I did so not because I object to the line taken by Durkin, but rather because the filmmaker offered no space for opinions contrary to his own. The documentary was pure polemic subsidised by the taxpayer.

But Ward is going much further than a complaint to Ofcom, both in his open letter and discussions surrounding it. Regarding the demand for "quality control", it is not clear who would be the adjudicators, and even if Ward et al are right about the science (I am convinced they are), this is not a proper way for scientists to behave.

My principal objection to Ward's open letter is that it shows contempt for free speech, and an unwarranted lack of confidence in the ability of the public to think critically. A secondary objection is that it displays political ineptitude, and may prove counterproductive.



Many people would like to be kind to others so Leftists exploit that with their nonsense about equality. Most people want a clean, green environment so Greenies exploit that by inventing all sorts of far-fetched threats to the environment. But for both, the real motive is generally to promote themselves as wiser and better than everyone else, truth regardless.

Global warming has taken the place of Communism as an absurdity that "liberals" will defend to the death regardless of the evidence showing its folly. Evidence never has mattered to real Leftists

For more postings from me, see TONGUE-TIED, EDUCATION WATCH, POLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC, GUN WATCH, SOCIALIZED MEDICINE, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, DISSECTING LEFTISM, IMMIGRATION WATCH and EYE ON BRITAIN. My Home Pages are here or here or here. Email me (John Ray) here. For times when blogger.com is playing up, there are mirrors of this site here and here.


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