Wednesday, January 06, 2010


Hard-up pensioners have resorted to buying books from charity shops and burning them to keep warm. Volunteers have reported that ‘a large number’ of elderly customers are snapping up hardbacks as cheap fuel for their fires and stoves.

Temperatures this week are forecast to plummet as low as -13ºC in the Scottish Highlands, with the mercury falling to -6ºC in London, -5ºC in Birmingham and -7ºC in Manchester as one of the coldest winters in years continues to bite.

Workers at one charity shop in Swansea, in south Wales, described how the most vulnerable shoppers were seeking out thick books such as encyclopaedias for a few pence because they were cheaper than coal. One assistant said: ‘Book burning seems terribly wrong but we have to get rid of unsold stock for pennies and some of the pensioners say the books make ideal slow-burning fuel for fires and stoves. A lot of them buy up large hardback volumes so they can stick them in the fire to last all night.’ A 500g book can sell for as little as 5p, while a 20kg bag of coal costs £5.

Since January 2008, gas bills have risen 40 per cent and electricity prices 20 per cent, although people over 60 are entitled to a winter fuel allowance of between £125 and £400.

Jonathan Stearn, energy expert for Consumer Focus, said: ‘If pensioners are taking such desperate measures to heat their homes it is shocking. With low wholesale prices and increasing profit margins, there is clearly room for energy companies to make price cuts immediately.’

Ruth Davison, of the National Housing Federation, said: ‘The spiralling cost of energy means heating homes has become a luxury rather than a necessity for many people – particularly the elderly, low paid and unemployed.’



Household gas and electricity bills are expected to rocket fourfold to nearly £5,000 a year by the end of the decade to meet Government-imposed green targets. And the price heavy industry will have to pay by 2020 is so high that energy-dependent firms could be wiped out, causing thousands of job losses, said an industry spokesman.

A massive rethink on the cost of 'green energy' is taking place in Whitehall among senior regulators and industry, leading some to question whether the public will be prepared to pay increasingly high bills for the UK to become greener than most countries.

Officials at regulator Ofgem now privately admit that a report they issued only last year severely underestimates the cost of cutting carbon emissions by building a new energy infrastructure for the UK. The watchdog's earlier report suggested that gas and electricity prices could double to £2,000 by 2020 to meet the £233.5 billion cost of going green by investing in nuclear energy and wind and wave power.

A spokeswoman for the Department of Energy and Climate Change said the Government-imposed 2020 target of a 34 per cent reduction in greenhouse gases by 2020 and the 2050 target of an 80 per cent cut in greenhouse gases, both from 1990, were among the most ambitious in the world.

Ofgem's worries about those figures are backed up by new research from an energy-switching company that calculates £548 of the average household bill of almost £5,000 in 2020 would be to pay for the investments in nuclear and renewable energy. This does not take into account payments to keep energy prices low for poorer people and grants for lagging and insulation for the fuel poor.

Ann Robinson, director of consumer policy at uSwitch, said: 'The £5,000-a-year energy bill may seem like an outside possibility, but we have to remember that energy bills doubled in the past five years alone and that the huge investment needed just to keep the lights on will alone add £548 a year to our bills.'

Already energy bills are loaded up by five separate charges to help fund the battle to combat climate change and become greener. They are the EU Emissions Trading Scheme, the Carbon Emissions Reduction Target, the Renewables Obligation, the Community Energy Saving Programme and shortly there will be a levy on investing in clean coal projects.

Although householders will be badly hit, the damage to industrial energy users will be even more dramatic. These companies, which range from steel and chemical plants to industrial gas companies, are dependent on reasonable energy prices that can, in some cases, account for 70 per cent of their entire costs.

Jeremy Nicholson, spokesman for the Energy Intensive Users' Group, said the Government's own figures showed that the price of electricity would go up by up to 70 per cent and the price of gas by a further 50 per cent as a direct result of meeting its renewable energy targets. 'We are not against cleaning up the environment, far from it,' he said. 'If every country faces these costs then so be it, but the UK has decided to be greener than any other country. The huge costs involved will make us totally uncompetitive. 'We are already highly efficient and cannot cut our costs further. If we find ourselves faced with these sort of increases, there will not be any heavy industry left in this country. We will be wiped out and with that thousands of jobs will go.'

But despite the pressure for energy prices to go up in the medium and longer term, gas bills are likely to come down this spring. Wholesale prices fell dramatically last year and industry sources said this would finally be passed on to customers.



Arctic air and record snow falls gripped the northern hemisphere yesterday, inflicting hardship and havoc from China, across Russia to Western Europe and over the US plains.

There were few precedents for the global sweep of extreme cold and ice that killed dozens in India, paralysed life in Beijing and threatened the Florida orange crop. Chicagoans sheltered from a potentially killer freeze, Paris endured sunny Siberian cold, Italy dug itself out of snowdrifts and Poland counted at least 13 deaths in record low temperatures of about minus 25C (-13F).

The heaviest snow yesterday hit northeastern Asia, which is suffering its worst winter weather for 60 years. More than 25 centimetres (10in) of snow covered Seoul, the South Korean capital — the heaviest fall since records began in 1937.

In China, Beijing and the nearby port city of Tianjin had the deepest snow since 1951, with falls of up to 8in and temperatures of minus 10C. In the far north of China, the temperature fell to minus 32C. More than two million Beijing and Tianjin pupils were sent home and 1,200 flights were delayed or cancelled at Beijing’s international airport.

The same far-eastern weather system took its toll of Sakhalin, the Russian island off Siberia, which was hit by blizzards and avalanches. Farther west, in northern and eastern India, more than 60 people, mainly homeless, died of exposure. Thousands of schools were closed. In Uttar Pradesh, the state neighbouring Nepal, the authorities spent £1.3 million on blankets and firewood for needy households.

Western Russia suffered a deep freeze as snow swept across the Baltic and north-central Europe, leaving the worst devastation in Poland, where 13 people died, bringing the toll from the cold this winter to 122.

Up to ten skiers died or were missing in avalanches. The worst incident was in the Diemtig Valley in Switzerland on Sunday, when avalanches hit a group of skiers and then the rescuers who went to their aid. Eight people were pulled from the snow alive, but four died, including an emergency doctor, and three more were missing.

In Italy, emergency services struggled with rare cold and ice. Motorways in the northeast were closed and military helicopters were sent to Sicily with medical aid.

In the United States, heavy snow fell again on the northeast. In Burlington, Vermont, a record 33in of snow fell in a weekend storm. The previous record in a three-day period was set in 1969. Residents of the Northern Plains were warned to expect lethally cold temperatures of about minus 30C.

The icy conditions of Western Europe, which broke records in half a dozen countries in December, are expected to last for at least another week.

Guo Hu, the head of the Beijing Meteorological Bureau, linked this week’s conditions to unusual atmospheric patterns caused by global warming. [Yep! Warming causes extreme cooling! And black is white]



As scientists struggle to predict exactly how global climate change will affect our environment, economists are grappling with another question: How well can humans adapt? Judging from the history of wheat production in North America, the answer is very well, says Paul Rhode of the University of Michigan.

In a paper done together with Alan Olmstead of the University of California-Davis, which he presented Sunday at the annual meeting of the American Economic Association, Mr. Rhode looks at how wheat production fared between the mid-1800s and the late 1900s, as production moved into parts of North America with harsher climates. The conclusion: Production adapted successfully as farmers introduced new strains that grew well in the new climates. “We’ve been there and done that in terms of adjusting wheat production to new climates,” he said.

According to the paper, production proved resilient to temperature changes of as much as two to five degrees centigrade — similar to the changes scientists expect to occur over the next 90 years as a result of the proliferation of greenhouse gases.

To be sure, the results don’t demonstrate that humans as a whole can be better off in a warmer world, and don’t suggest that measures to combat global warming are unnecessary. For one, the data are limited to wheat production and to North America, where the impact of climate change on agriculture is likely to be less severe than in developing nations such as India. Beyond that, the changes in wheat production happened over a very long period. Farmers and seed breeders could have a much harder time adjusting to more rapid changes in climate.

Still, Mr. Rhode says the research suggests adaptability is a factor “that should not be discounted.”



An alternative fuel for diesel engines is off to a shaky start this year though it emits fewer pollutants and cuts down on petroleum use because it's made from environmentally friendly waste and vegetable oil. A federal tax credit that provided makers of biodiesel $1 for every gallon expired Friday. As a result, some U.S. producers say they will shut down without the government subsidy.

Biodiesel's woes come on top of a year of problems for the fledgling biofuel industry - an irony given the push to cut down on greenhouse gases and ease the nation's need for foreign oil. A key driver for the alternative fuel - the high cost of oil - disappeared as diesel prices dropped 18 percent since the beginning of the recession. Then in March the European Union placed import-killing tariffs on biodiesel and other biofuels.

It was a huge hit for U.S. biofuel makers, with Europe taking 95 percent of all global exports.

Biodiesel, which is usually blended with traditional fuel, had over the past few years been the fastest growing fuel among fleet vehicles like buses, snow plows and garbage trucks. Those fleets, however, can shift to traditional fuel, as some have, when the prices of diesel drops.

The biodiesel industry is now operating at only 15 percent of its potential capacity, according to the National Biodiesel Board, largely because the price of traditional diesel has collapsed.


Australia: Greenie-inspired attacks on electricity usage spark fears of more deaths during heatwaves

SOARING power bills have sparked fears of more deaths during heatwaves as battlers turn off fans and air-conditioners. Welfare agencies want more financial aid for hundreds of thousands of Victoria's poorest households to cope with crippling price rises. Struggling pensioners, singles and families are telling emergency relief services they will have to cut back on food and children's education costs. Some households face being slugged $400 extra for electricity this year unless they shop around.

Even more financial pain is predicted amid proposed federal climate change policies and an industry push to upgrade electricity poles and wires.

A Victorian Council of Social Service report has called for a boost to winter energy concessions, as well as cash to help pay for the installation of new smart meters. "Prices are rising so dramatically that concession payments are simply not keeping energy affordable," VCOSS deputy director Carolyn Atkins said.

The Consumer Utilities Advocacy Centre fears the problem will get worse, with potentially deadly consequences, as companies switch to "time of use" billing in coming years. This method charges more for power used in peak periods. "We are concerned some people will dangerously resort to not using cooling or heating in their homes because of the impact on their budgets," CUAC chief Jo Benvenuti said.

Ms Atkins said the winter energy discount paid to 740,000 Victorian households should be lifted from 17.5 per cent to 20 per cent. She said a rebate for smart meters was also needed.

A State Government spokeswoman said: "Organisations such as VCOSS regularly put forward suggestions for the coming Budget at this time of year, however we always make our Budget announcements in May. "Victoria is widely considered to have the most robust and comprehensive energy consumer protection regime in Australia."


Mr Rudd, your misguided warming policies are killing millions

An open letter to Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd from The Right Honourable The Viscount Monckton of Brenchley below. Australian cartoonist ZEG has a fuller version up. Kevvy is too much of a Leftist to be bothered with facts and logic, however

YOU say I am one of "those who argue that climate change does not represent a global market failure". Yet it is only recently that opinion sufficient to constitute a market signal became apparent in the documents of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which is, however, a political rather than a scientific entity. There has scarcely been time for a "market failure".

Besides, corporations are falling over themselves to cash in on the giant financial fraud against the little guy that carbon taxation and trading have already become in the goody-two-shoes EU, and will become in Australia if you get your way.

You say I was one of "those who argue that somehow the market will magically solve the problem". In fact I have never argued that, though in general the market is better at solving problems than the habitual but repeatedly failed dirigisme of the etatistes predominant in the classe politique today.

The questions I address are a) whether there is a climate problem at all; and b) even if there is one whether waiting and adapting, if necessary, is more cost-effective than attempting to mitigate the supposed problem by trying to reduce the carbon dioxide our industries and enterprises emit.

Let us pretend, solum ad argumentum, that a given proportionate increase in CO2 concentration causes the maximum warming imagined by the IPCC. By the end of this month, according to the Copenhagen Accord, all parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change are due to report what cuts in emissions they will make by 2020. Broadly speaking, the Annex 1 parties, who will account for about half of global emissions over the period, will commit to reducing current emissions by 30 per cent by 2020, or 15 per cent on average in the decade between now and 2020.

Thus, if every Annex 1 party to the Copenhagen Accord complies with its obligations to the full, today's emissions will be reduced by about half of that 15 per cent, namely 7.5 per cent, compared with business as usual. If the trend of the past decade continues, with business as usual we shall add 2 parts per million by volume/ year, or 20 ppmv over the decade. Now, 7.5 per cent of 20 ppmv is 1.5 ppmv. One-fiftieth of a Celsius degree of warming forestalled is all that complete, global compliance with the Copenhagen Accord for an entire decade would achieve. Yet the cost of achieving this result - an outcome so small that our instruments would not be able to measure it - would run into trillions of dollars.

You say "formal global and national economic modelling" shows "that the costs of inaction are greater than the costs of acting". Yet, every economic analysis except that of the now discredited Lord Stern, with its near-zero discount rate and its absurdly inflated warming rates, comes to the same ineluctable conclusion: adaptation to climate change, if necessary, is orders of magnitude more cost-effective than attempts at mitigation. In a long career in policy analysis in and out of government, I have never seen so cost-ineffective a proposed waste of taxpayers' money to stop the tide from coming in.

I have done this calculation on the basis that everyone complies with the Copenhagen Accord yet precedent does not look promising. The Kyoto Protocol has been in operation for more than a decade. So far, after billions spent, global CO2 emissions have risen.

Remember, too, that we have assumed the maximum warming that might occur in response to an increase in CO2 concentration. Yet even the IPCC's central estimate of CO2's warming effect, according to an increasing number of serious papers in the peer-reviewed literature, is a five-fold exaggeration. If those papers are right, warming forestalled may prove to be just one-thousandth of a degree.

You led a delegation of 114 people to Copenhagen to bring back a non-result. Half a dozen were all that was really necessary. If you and your officials are not willing to tighten your belts, why should the taxpayers tighten theirs?

You say that our aim, in daring to oppose the transient fashion for apocalypticism, is "to erode just enough of the political will that action becomes impossible". No. Our aim is to ensure that the truth is widely enough understood to prevent the squandering of precious resources on addressing the non-problem of anthropogenic "global warming". The correct policy response to a non-problem is to have the courage to do nothing.

You say that I and others like me base our thinking on the notion that "the cost of not acting is nothing". Well, after a decade and a half with no statistically significant "global warming", and after three decades in which the mean warming rate has been well below the ever-falling predictions of the UN's climate panel, that notion has not been disproved in reality.

However, the question I address is whether the cost of taking action is many times greater than the cost of not acting? The answer is yes.

Millions are already dying of starvation in the world's poorest nations because world food prices have doubled in two years. That was caused by a sharp drop in world food production, caused by suddenly taking millions of acres of land out of growing food for people who need it, to grow biofuels for clunkers that don't. The policies that you advocate are killing people by the million. At a time when so many of the world's people are already short of food, the UN's right-to-food rapporteur, Herr Ziegler, has rightly condemned the biofuel scam as "a crime against humanity".

Yet this slaughter is founded upon a lie: the claim by the IPCC that it is 90 per cent certain that most of the "global warming" since 1950 is man-made. This claim - based not on science but on a show of hands among political representatives, with China wanting a lower figure and other nations wanting a higher figure - is demonstrably false. Peer-reviewed analyses of changes in cloud cover over recent decades - changes almost entirely unconnected with changes in CO2 concentration - show that it was this largely natural reduction in cloud cover from 1983-2001 and a consequent increase in the amount of short-wave and UV solar radiation reaching the Earth that accounted for five times as much warming as CO2 could have caused.

Nor is the IPCC's great lie the only lie in the official documents of the IPCC and in the speeches of its current chairman, who has made himself a multi-millionaire as a "global warming" profiteer.

It is also a fact that, while those of the UN's computer models that can be forced with an increase in sea-surface temperatures all predict a consequent fall in the flux of outgoing radiation at top of atmosphere, in observed reality there is an increase. In short, the radiation that is supposed to be trapped here in the troposphere to cause "global warming" is measured as escaping to space much as usual, so that it cannot be causing more than about one-fifth of the warming the IPCC predicts.

It would be kinder to your working people to wait another decade and see whether global temperatures even begin to respond as the IPCC has predicted? What is the worst that can happen if you wait? Just 0.02C of global warming that would not otherwise have occurred. It's a no-brainer.



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


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