Wednesday, 31 October 2012

A small step in the right direction

A tiny bit of good news:

The rebel amendment calling for a real-terms reduction in EU spending was passed after a stormy debate in Commons on the 27-member union's next seven-year budget and UK contributions.

Westminster's most promising MP posted a good article on the subject earlier today:

Only two areas were ringfenced from the current spending cuts: the NHS and foreign aid. The EU is not on the list. Why should it not take its share of austerity? Let’s not forget that because Britain’s public finances are in deficit (thanks to Labour), we borrow and pay interest on the money we give to the EU every year.

After years of rolling over for the EU while in government, the Labour Party are saying they will vote for the reduction. There’s a whiff of opportunism in the air. Knowing that the Coalition could be defeated, no Conservative will enjoy going through the lobby with the spendthrift authors of Britain’s present financial misery. Nevertheless on this occasion Labour are – even if for the wrong reason – helping the Prime Minister. The stronger his parliamentary mandate to demand the EU takes a cut, the stronger his credibility will be at the negotiating table. Other Governments will know the PM cannot deliver a Commons’ majority for a bad deal in the way Balir regularly did.

Labour's opportunism is truly shameless, but on this occasion I'm happy to see them do the right thing for the wrong reason, and it was heartening to see enough Conservative backbenchers put country before party (many of them, I'm sure, for opportunistic reasons of their own).

What's truly shocking is that there are some MPs prepared to oppose a real-terms cut in the EU budget, but at least things seem to be moving in the right direction.


Here's Daniel Hannan's summary of the event:

For the first time since Britain joined the EU, Parliament has voted in an unequivocally anti-Brussels manner. It won't do to say that Labour's vote was meaningless because its motive was cynical. Of course it was cynical, but so what? The fact is that the party will now find it awkward to back away from its new and popular position on EU spending. Public opinion long since hardened against the EU; parliamentary opinion has at last followed.

Congratulations to Mark Reckless, who has the distinction of being the first MP in 40 years to secure a Eurosceptic majority in the lobbies. Congratulations, too, to all those parliamentarians who did as their electors wanted, on both sides of the chamber – but particularly to those put their constituents before their Whips. The 53 Tory heroes are listed here. Ladies and gentlemen, you are honourable members indeed.

Monday, 22 October 2012

Paine inside the asylum

The idea that a state with a total monopoly on the use of force, control over the national curriculum, control through state funding of a huge proportion of academic research, the ability to propagandise constantly at taxpayer expense etc. is weak in the face of companies only interested in selling goods and services is too ludicrous for words. Nonetheless, it was a constant theme at the event and I cannot tell if those arguing it are genuinely stupid or dishonestly justifying more state control. I suspect the latter. I know Orwell's point that some things are so stupid only intellectuals can believe them, but this just goes too far.

As did Bennett's complaint that the people of Totnes are getting a branch of Costa Coffee they don't want because the planning system is too weak to protect their "freedom". If the people of Totnes don't want their new coffee shop, it will be gone in months. Opening it is a bet the company is making that they want it very much and all the residents have to do to make it lose is not show up. The idea that planning control promotes freedom, when it actually limits the use by an owner of his own property, destroying value in the process, is again, too ridiculous to be anything but sinister. As so often, when a speaker at the event said "we don't want this" or "we want that" I had a sense that the "we" neither included me nor was meant to.

From a truly superb post by Tom Paine.

Do read the whole article.

Tuesday, 9 October 2012

Beware of the troll hunters

The Register reports:
A young man was jailed for 12 weeks today, after confessing to posting "grossly offensive" comments on Facebook

He posted some bad taste jokes culled from Sickipedia on a support group for April Jones's family and friends, according to press reports.
Woods was handed the three-month jail term for the offence under section 127 of the Communications Act 2003. The sentence meted out in such cases cannot exceed six months.
Trolls like Matthew Woods are loathsome creatures, and it's difficult to feel any sympathy for them.  But I'm more concerned about the troll hunters.  Are we really comfortable living in a country where people can be locked away for six months for being unpleasant?

Friday, 5 October 2012

Power shortage risks by 2015

This doesn't feel very 21st century, does it?

Britain risks running out of energy generating capacity in the winter of 2015-16, according to the energy regulator Ofgem.

Its report predicted that the amount of spare capacity could fall from 14% now to only 4% in three years.

But it shouldn't come as a surprise. DK has been warning about it for a long time now, most recently on the 8th of August:

This isn't the 1970s: if the power goes, then so does our entire infrastructure. Banking grinds to a halt, the internet is unreachable (and half of it down anyway), the vast majority of people simply will not be able to work at all.

But even if we do not have to start a series of rolling black-outs, the price of power has been climbing steadily. And power is required for everything these days: as such, as power becomes more expensive then so does everything else.

This government—and its predecessor—have been quite deliberately following a set of policies designed to impoverish everyone in the country. And, throughout all of the other insanities of this time, they have continued to prosecute this war against their own people.

Their aim is simple: to reduce power consumption—whether because of climate change or in order to avoid difficult decisions about building power stations, I do not know (although I have my suspicions).

The government's own report—you know, the one that showed that power would not be more expensive overall—relied on the country using half the electricity that it does now by 2020.

Reducing power consumption may be a laudable aim but it is, frankly, unrealistic in that timescale without a significant down-grading of our current life-style.
I face my ongoing struggle with Hanlon's Razor.

Even if you think CO2 emissions are something worth worrying about, and that reductions here in the UK will somehow make a difference to the global problem, the approach of the British government (first NuLab, now the Coalition) has been sheer lunacy.

The surest way to reduce emissions is to replace coal-fired power stations with nuclear or gas plants. Instead, our politicians have been spunking billions of taxpayers' pounds on ugly, inefficient wind farms which require backup from conventional power sources. Because of the way the backup plants operate, this combined approach is not just staggeringly expensive, but potentially counterproductive:

A study in the Netherlands found that turning back-up gas power stations on and off to cover spells when there is little wind actually produces more carbon than a steady supply of energy from an efficient modern gas station.
Wind turbines only produce energy around 30 per cent of the time. When the wind is not blowing - or even blowing too fast as in the recent storms - other sources of electricity have to be used, mostly gas and coal.

However it takes a surge of electricity to power up the fossil fuel stations every time they are needed, meaning more carbon emissions are released.

“You keep having to switch these gas fired power stations on and off, whereas if you just have highly efficient modern gas turbines and let it run all the time, it will use less gas,” said Ruth Lea, an economic adviser to Arbuthnot Banking Group.

More thoughtful environmentalists are recognising the importance of shale gas. Any sane government would be looking in this direction. Ours, incredibly, seems prepared to let the lights go out rather than confront the irrational demands of fanatical greens.

Future generations will be amazed that we entrusted the supply of energy - the 21st century's most vital commodity - to politicians.