Wednesday, January 10, 2007


A warning to all about the Greenie enthusiasm for buses and trains. Even semi-privatization has not helped

I always swore not to write one of these grumpy holiday-return pieces. I am aware that plenty of my fellow citizens don't even get a week's respite from slum-Britannia, and to them I apologise. But this sense of reduced citizenship is not confined to travellers, so maybe it is worth recording what the sharpened senses perceive.

The most striking thing, obviously, is public transport. Under a Government that repeatedly nags us to get out of our cars, and that has failed to reverse its predecessor's disastrous privatisation, too much train travel is physically and psychologically nasty. Mainline fares have just risen by between 4.3 per cent and 7 per cent. Last year's rises were between 3.7 and 8.8 per cent. In return we get squalor (often) and insult (occasionally). After being wafted serenely 500 miles across Europe on fast, clean trains with smiling staff, our party crossed to Liverpool Street on a busy Saturday to find only one train an hour on the main line towards Ipswich and Norwich. Inconsiderately "scheduled" engineering works meant that at Colchester it was replaced by a bus.

The train, slow and grubby and without a ticket inspector to keep order, was packed with snoring lads belching and resting their feet on seats, their beer-cans rolling and leaking across the floor while quieter travellers resignedly tried to keep their children's feet out of the mess, or sat on their baggage by the door. At Colchester there were buses, but only one with a luggage hold; we did all right but my brother's family were ordered to put their heavy bags in one bus, then unload them all again because there were no seats, then switch to an ancient double-decker where cases were piled in the aisle, blocking any escape route. Which was a shame, since the vehicle then began leaking exhaust fumes into its lower deck as it bucketed down the A12, causing passengers to cough and gasp and one, recovering from a chest infection, to feel seriously ill. Through the fumes of carbon monoxide loomed a large sign announcing a fine of 1,000 pounds for smoking.

This tone of reprimand mingled with disregard, all too familiar to anyone who deals with British institutions, was continued when they stumbled out and reported the safety problems to the "duty supervisor". She snapped that it was nothing to do with her because the buses were subcontracted. The idea that her company had charged a full railway-comfort fare and provided a journey on a poisonous cramped bus seemed not to occur to her. Minutes later, coughing and struggling to load their car on an empty forecourt, they were accosted by the same official and vengefully told to move on.

Well, sometimes things go better. But that combination of official self-righteousness with contempt for the client-citizen is too familiar. Think of local authority decisions to collect the filthiest garbage only once a fortnight even in high summer, and soon charge by weight. Think what happens when you try to reduce that weight by telling the Royal Mail not to deliver sackfuls of unaddressed circulars: you get a threatening message telling you that if you opt out of double-glazing flyers you will miss "leaflets from Central and Local Government and other public bodies" because they refuse to separate these. So you won't know when your dustbin or surgery day changes.

And it'll be your fault. Everything is always your fault, in Britain. Never mind that your water company paid its directors huge bonuses rather than fix its pipes: the shortage is your fault for having baths. The theory behind Thatcherite privatisations was, I vaguely remember, that we would get better service if we were customers not sharers; in some cases it worked (it took the old GPO weeks to install a phone, and BT speeded things up). But in many cases - railways, airports, car parks, water, power, PFIs that overspend and put our children in hock for decades, NHS and Whitehall consultancies - the arrogance of state monopoly simply blends with the greediness of commerce to produce a hideous all-British hybrid in which the key principle is worship of its own systems and contempt for the public. John Major dimly saw this when he set up citizen's charters and cones hotlines; but the momentum was already too great.



The government's desire to extend the polluter pays principle to every sector of the economy took a bizarre new twist yesterday as UK farmers were urged to stop their flatulent livestock releasing methane into the atmosphere.

Speaking at the Oxford Farming Conference, environment secretary David Miliband warned that agriculture contributes seven percent of the UK's greenhouse gas emissions and a third of its methane - one of the most damaging climate change gases. As a result, he said, the polluter pays principle would soon be applied to farming in the way it is already being introduced to other industries. "That means greenhouse gases generated in producing food or in food miles carrying a price need to be recognised in the same way as greenhouse gases generated in other industries," he explained.

And in a veiled warning that legislation was on the agenda he confirmed the government "will look closely at how incentives within the food, energy and land markets can reflect environmental impact more closely".

While it is unlikely that this will result in a "fart-tax" with civil servants chasing cows round with breathalyzer style methane measurers, Miliband did argue that farmers should act to reduce methane emissions by feeding cattle different food, breeding them to live longer, altering the handling of manure and getting farms to generate "biogas" or "biofertiliser" from animal waste.

Extending the polluter pays principle to farming would likely lead to higher food prices, but Miliband insisted that climate change could provide an opportunity for farmers, as it has done in other sectors.



"I've never seen industry so deathly afraid of the current politics surrounding climate change policy," a Bush administration environmental official told me. With good reason. As Democrats take control of Congress, once firm opposition to the green lobby's campaign of imposing carbon emission controls is weak. Panicky captains of industry have themselves largely to blame for failing to respond to the environmentalists' well-financed propaganda operation. One government official says "industry appears utterly helpless and utterly clueless as to how to respond." But the Bush administration itself is a house divided, with support for greens and severe carbon regulation inside the Department of Energy rampant, reaching up to the secretary himself.

None of this necessarily means climate change will become law during the next two years, with President Bush wielding his veto pen if any bill escapes the Senate's gridlock. Rep. John Dingell of Detroit, reassuming chairmanship of the Energy and Commerce Committee after a dozen years' absence, will try to protect the automotive industry from Draconian regulation. But over the long term, industry is losing to the greens.

The stakes are immense, as shown by the impact of the bill to implement the Kyoto proposal co-sponsored by Sen. John McCain, front-runner for the Republican presidential nomination, and Sen. Joe Lieberman, the favorite Democrat of many Republicans. The U.S. Energy Information Administration estimates this measure would reduce gross domestic product by $776 billion, raise gasoline prices 40 cents a gallon, raise natural gas prices 46 percent and cut coal production by nearly 60 percent. Charles River Associates, business consultants, predicts it would kill 600,000 jobs. Yet, Jonathan Lash of the World Resources Institute last week said McCain-Lieberman does not go far enough in reducing carbon emissions. Green extremists would prefer the severe legislation proposed by Sen. Barbara Boxer, the new chairman of the Environment and Public Works Committee.

According to industry sources, Dingell has privately advised auto industry lobbyists to prepare for the worst. House Speaker-designate Nancy Pelosi is making carbon emission legislation a priority, and Dingell has warned Detroit that she expects him to move a bill through his committee. He will do his best to modify legislation, but he is obliged to follow Pelosi's wishes and cannot play Horatio at the Bridge. The same dilemma faces Rep. Rick Boucher, a staunch ally of the coal industry who will become chairman of the Energy and Commerce subcommittee on energy and air quality. He must balance Pelosi's desires with the interests of the coal counties in his Southwest Virginia district.

Staunch foes of carbon regulation remain in the administration, headed by Chairman James L. Connaughton of the Council on Environmental Quality. But the Energy Department's top executive strata have gone green. Since moving from deputy Treasury secretary to Energy secretary nearly two years ago, business executive and financier Samuel W. Bodman has kept a low profile. In a rare public utterance on global warning Oct. 5, 2005, he said an "increasing level of certainty" about global warming fueled by carbon dioxide "is real" and "a matter we take seriously." In private meetings, he has expressed dissatisfaction with administration policy. Bodman's under secretary, former Senate staffer David K. Garman, has shocked industry lobbyists with his criticism of the president's views.

In the background is a pending Supreme Court decision on what the Clean Air Act requires or permits the Environmental Protection Agency to do about greenhouse gas emissions. Even if the Court says the authority is merely discretionary, McCain or any Democratic president would then crack down on industry if nothing is passed before the 2008 election.

Ultimate salvation from U.S. self-destructive behavior may come from the real world. Most European Union countries, suffering higher energy costs and constraints on growth imposed by the Kyoto pact, cannot meet that treaty's emission level requirements. Furthermore, China is on pace to exceed U.S. emissions by 2010, meaning that unilateral U.S. carbon controls will have little impact on global emissions while driving American jobs to China.

This downside of Speaker Pelosi's green determination ought to resonate in union halls and coalfields of Pennsylvania, Ohio and West Virginia. However, American industrialists, while wringing their hands, are not making their case.


Global cooling hits Australia's hottest town

As the rest of Australia sweltered through its 11th-warmest year on record, one famously hot town set a new mark for its coldest year. Maximum temperatures in the northwest West Australian town of Marble Bar came inalmost 3C below average lastyear. In its world-beating heatwave, from October 31, 1923, to April 7, 1924, the maximum temperature never dropped below 100 degrees Fahrenheit (37.8C). That record still stands. But last year, Marble Bar recorded an average maximum of 32.5C, well below its long-term annual norm of 35.3C.

The mining town made its mark while the rest of the country recorded an average temperature 0.47C above the 1961-1990 norm. Marble Bar's previous coolest year, in 92 years of records, was 1978 (33.5C). Perth meteorologist Glenn Cook said clouds, rain and cyclones in Marble Bar's hottest months had kept a lid on temperatures. Mr Cook said the town received falls of about 50mm in September, 30mm in October, 15mm in November and 10mm last month, a period when it normally had a total of 10mm. It registered 448mm in the rain gauge last year, well above the normal annual total of 311mm.

Len Lever, a Marble Bar resident for 37 years, said last winter felt cooler but summer was as hot as usual. Mr Lever, 69, said ex-cyclone Isobel brought only 3mm of rain. "It's nice now. It's cooled the country down for a while."



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

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