Number of the Month

November 2014

Missing links

You take it for granted, then it isn’t there and you suddenly realise how important it was. That happens so often in life, but at the end of October it was the weekly survey from SEPP that was missing. Fortunately, it has returned, but its temporary absence underlined what a vital and remarkable service it provides. That TWTW list is amazingly thorough (yes, it even includes the occasional modest contributions from Number Watch on matters of Energy and Climate). It was particularly convenient that it had links from WUWT, giving one-stop access to all relevant references and comment. A note of thanks and encouragement to those busy folk from grateful users would not go amiss.

04/11/14

 

The self-defence society

So, UK income tax receipts are disappointing. Not surprising in the face of the continuous rise of total taxation demands on people, prominently including stealth and green taxes. It is that dreaded Laffer curve again. You have to feel a bit sorry for the current Chancellor, who has to cope with the monstrous debts run up by the insane policies of his predecessor, Gordon Brown. The chickens of a decade of tax, borrow, spend and waste under New Labour have come home to roost with a vengeance. When there is general tacit agreement that the overweening burden of overall taxation has become intolerable, ordinary people take matters into their own hands and stoke up the unofficial cash economy, just as they did during the reign of Denis Healey. At such times the official numbers become meaningless, yet they remain the basis on which policy is made. Healey’s crisis was largely imaginary.

People feel put upon, but it is not just taxation that is the cause. They see destructively incompetent bankers being sacked yet retiring rich for life, while the banks continue ruthlessly to exploit their customers and staff; Members of Parliament granted magnificent salaries and generous pensions, all on the taxpayer; burgeoning and grossly overpaid executives throughout the public and private sectors, making life harder for everyone else. They see their hard-earned taxes wasted and given away to imaginary causes and corrupt recipients. They are faced annually with a self-assessment form that in length and complexity is a gross imposition on those without expertise. They experience the privations consequent to avoidable economic failure, while the governing classes appear to continue to bathe in the comforts of wealth. They are lectured to by self-appointed “experts” who seek to dictate every detail and decision of the one short life that they have been granted. Political parties promise them that they will simplify and reduce taxation and control, yet in office do just the opposite.

There are two dominant power bases in modern society – the pirates and the zealots. They come together in the world of politics, to the detriment of the general population. Under their influence successive governments swing between arrogance and panic.  Two long-lived governments, the Thatcher one and then New Labour, became arrogant because they apparently had such a popular mandate. The fact was that each was in turn kept in office almost solely by the self-evident unelectability of the opposition. That arrogance not only led them to believe that they did not need to rely on local party organisation, but also thereby led to a collapse of morale that characterised their ultimate defeat. The slogan Vote Blue, Get Green was invented to appease the loudest zealot group, yet it lost an eminently winnable election and introduced a weak coalition government.

The boundaries between zealotry and piracy are blurred. Zealotry is mainly characterised by a psychological need to obtain and exercise power over others, though for some fame is the spur. Piracy is primarily governed by the urge towards personal advantage, by money and/or office. Piratical politicians have stolen control of parties from their rightful owners, the ordinary members, while piratical businessmen have seized control of important entities, such as banks, to build personal empires and wealth. In each case their gain is matched by the losses to ordinary people. The concept of service is obsolete; younger people simply do not believe it when oldies tell them that the bank manager used to be a family friend and advisor. Politicians looked the other way when piratical carpet-baggers turned first-class mutual societies into third-class banks, which were then swallowed up by bigger pirates. Main-party politicians and bankers are almost universally loathed by the general populace in the UK, as elsewhere in the world. Similar conditions apply in the USA, but it would be impertinent for an outsider to comment on the basis of the dubious information provided by the establishment media.

As most recent defectors from political organisations will claim, I did not leave the Conservative Party: it left me.  I had joined an energetic grass-roots organisation, highly inhomogeneous yet united by core beliefs, but decades later parted from a monolithic centralised structure without inherent principles. Everyone has their own last straw: mine was that photograph of Stuntman Dave on his Hug-a-husky Stunt. He was paying a highly orchestrated, zealot-inspired, visit to a retreating glacier in a country that also contained advancing ones. I had been chairman of a highly successful party branch and hung on to membership in hope but, a few years after I resigned, the party lost that once safe seat. As an astute journalist noted in February 2013, Cameron has since been trashing his own party and it was not a pretty sight. At least the UK has not yet created the equivalent of the EPA in the USA, an organisation long associated with the movement for international socialist government, given leave to act outside the aegis of democratic politics. Unfortunately in America, as in much of the world, democratic is a highly ambiguous word.

It is a mad world my masters.

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19/11/2014

 

The Dark Ages

 

O dark dark dark. They all go into the dark
Eliot, East Coker

 

Apparently it is Black Friday, according to the marketers (it’s all over the establishment media, yet another intruding alien commercial festival). Meanwhile, UK's blackout prevention plans in doubt after back-up power plant fails. They were part of the string-and-chewing-gum schemes to shore up the ramshackle supply system. Eleven years after the UK Climate Act, however, parts of the media are finally noticing that something is amiss.

The headlines go on and on about darkness but, apart from the indirect effect on fatal falls, it is not the dark that kills: it is the cold. Our homes have changed in response to the expectation of constant energy supply, which leaves us more vulnerable to the consequences of the Greenie attacks on the energy supply system. In the olden days, when we oldies were young, families took their own responsibility for insuring against external energy supply failures. The space under the stairs was the coal cellar, kept topped up by regular visits from the coal man. Now in modern houses there is little or no provision for fuel storage and it has become a major problem. We were lulled into a false sense of security by the universal provision of power, only limited by cost. What government in its right mind would imperil that? We had no conception of isolated colonies of politicians in closed villages such as Washington, Westminster and Brussels losing contact with reality to such an extent that they would trash the energy supply system on quasi-religious grounds.

All households in countries afflicted with green-tinged governments need to take precautions against disaster, especially those that are home to endangered individuals, such as the very young, the very old and the ill. In our household, having had the salutary reminder of a power cut in July, we have made a number of unwontedly expensive investments in defensive equipment. We have bought a portable gas cylinder heater and several different rechargeable LED lighting devices. We have also removed the gas fire and retro-fitted an old-fashioned solid fuel grate. An open fire with a chimney minimises the risk of carbon monoxide poisoning. The big problem is storing the fuel, which is not provided for in modern houses, so it has to be stacked in plastic bags in the garage. I now walk (not a lot) with the aid of two sticks, so it is my poor little wife who has to do the coal humping. My stair-lift has a battery, but I am not sure how many trips it covers, so in the event I will have to decide whether to be stranded upstairs or downstairs. Of course, it may well be that none of this will be needed, but that is the nature of insurance, and does not justify the insouciant attitude taken by politicians in the face of risk.

As a result of correspondence, I recently listened again to a radio interview I gave seven years ago, which had been prompted by the essay on global warming as religion. It is a haunting experience to hear your past self, but the aftermath was recurring thoughts on the changes that have taken place in the intervening years.

Then Gore was in his pomp, as was Blair (Man in his pomp yet without understanding is like the beasts that perish, Psalm 49). Now Gore is in his counting house, counting out his money, as is Blair; hoi polloi are picking up the tab. Climate change is received dogma, a fait accompli, evidence is an irrelevance and doubters are evil deniers.

As we stated at the time of the Climate Change Act in Power Mad! – “Decisions on energy policy come into effect ten or twenty years after they are made.” So seven years ago the threats were still in the future. Now they are very much in the present: though, of course, when and whether the most catastrophic outcomes occur will depend on random combinations of events, particularly weather. That proviso does not, however, apply to less spectacular everyday outcomes, the most appalling of which is the widespread energy poverty being experienced by wide sectors of populations in advanced countries as well as inherently poor ones. Energy is basically abundant and cheap: its current pricing is purely a political construct, to which one must add the various stealth taxes and other impositions on a helpless public.

You can accurately judge the viability of a potential energy source by the attitude of green activists to it. If they attack it, it is viable. If they defend it, it is non-viable. Thus in the current debate fracking is viable (and, ironically, made so by the artificially high prices of existing energy sources) while wind, wave etc. are non-viable, mostly but not entirely because of their inherent intermittency, which in any reasonable analysis makes them no less than a ludicrous choice.
It is, of course, quite ridiculous for ordinary people to be obliged to store energy under the stairs or in their garages. It is quite contrary to accepted concepts of economics, such as division of labour as Adam Smith proposed in his Wealth of Nations. It makes much more sense for specialists to do it efficiently at a national level, but once politicians (under pressure from zealot lobby groups) interfere with the logic of that process, then it loses the trust of the people. They are forced back onto their own resources in order to provide for the safety of themselves and their families (well, at least the thoughtful ones are). We are returning to the everyone-for-himself society.

It is ever more a mad world, my masters!

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28/11/14

 

Grid-lock

I thought I ought to have a look at the National Grid, as it seemed to be behaving rather oddly for a service with a precisely defined but vital role. I thought I was immune by now, after years of commenting on nonsense, but I must confess that I was shocked and depressed. It seems to have been taken over by a bunch of crazed green feminists, who seem to be worked up about everything except the serious job in hand.

Here is a list of the things that are preoccupying them at the moment, according to the front page of their web site:

A renewables goal

Carbon monoxide poisoning

Natural beauty

Better together

Addressing the rise of the female economy

All very important matters in their own way, no doubt, but anything to do with what we are paying them for? Of course, the beauty of nature is an important cause, though frankly one for which they seem to pay scant attention. Avoidance of carbon monoxide poisoning is also a major and timely issue (we raised it here a couple of days ago) but irrelevant to healthy power distribution (until it fails, of course).

The one item that does not appear in that priority list is keeping people alive and well. That, however, is why we have put our lives in their hands.

What you have to consider is the implicit implications of the dysphemisms that they use. Looking for any signs of preparation for the possibility of a harsh winter, you find this in a side-bar:

 

Insight: Electricity margins are tighter this year at around 4.5% than in previous years due to planned generator closures and breakdowns as well as some uncertainty regarding generators returning from outage.

 

Tighter this year – what a masterpiece of understatement! Perhaps it refers to the tight-rope over the ravine that they are making us all walk. They are taking unnecessary risks and, unfortunately, each year they get away with it they are tempted to take more.

Planned closures! As though being planned is a justification for any action (try applying it to murder, for example). It would have been comforting if there had been some sign of mitigating actions, such as planned replacements being put in place before planned closures.

Female economy, for heaven’s sake! It is a throwback to the post-modernist fiasco, when we had articles published with such titles as Towards a feminist algebra. What the Grid needs is a team of competent engineers, the sex of whom is immaterial, not a bunch of politically correct propagandists. Why do they need a marketing director (female, of course)? They are a natural monopoly, whose customers therefore have no choice. It could not be that what they have to sell is just political correctness, could it?

Perhaps we are being unfair with this selection, so let us look at their press releases for this critical month of the year. That should give a fair account of their predilections:

§                     Press releases

§                                 28 Nov 2014 National Grid donate fire truck to Peak District National Park

§                                 28 Nov 2014 Deansgate Lane, Timperley closed during essential gas mains works

§                                 24 Nov 2014 Social Action creates 'better' job candidates

§                                 24 Nov 2014 £12.6million boost for two innovative National Grid projects

§                                 20 Nov 2014 Green first for Norfolk: gas from locally sourced crops starts flowing to homes and businesses

Number of the month – 10

This is the number of priorities with which the National Grid is concerned at the start of winter, as reflected in its front page headlines and press releases. May the gods of weather have mercy upon us.

 30/11/14

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