July 2013


Winning the argument on energy

Last October, I launched UKIP’s energy policy at our Party Conference.  I warned that Britain faced a real prospect of electricity shortages and black­outs by 2020, unless serious action was taken.  I said that wind turbines could not fill the looming gap.  I said we needed more gas – the only power stations that could be built in time.  And we need coal and nuclear.

That was seen by some as alarmist.  Yet today, we’re vindicated.  We have Ofgem warning of blackouts not by 2020 (as I’d predicted) but in two or three years.  The Coalition’s energy policy is in a shambles.  The media are full of stories about the coming energy crunch and the failure of renewables.  “Crunch time as UK faces battle to keep the lights on”.  “Storm clouds over wind farm hand-outs”. Read it here.

The message is even getting through to the old parties at last.  Daventry MP Chris Heaton-Harris has been organising resistance to wind farms in Westminster.  Dominic Raab hails the announcement that Britain has huge reserves of shale gas, and demands that we take on the vested interests ranging from Friends of the Earth to Vladimir Putin and Gazprom.

George Osborne is making positive noises on gas.  The only person who really hasn’t got it is Ed Davey.  Bizarrely, having previously made a small cut in wind farm subsidies, he’s now reinstated the earlier levels.  Too bad he’s the Secretary of State for Energy.

Letter: the true cost of wind farms

Letters editor,                                                        Published June 23rd

The Sunday Telegraph,

Dear Sir,

Your main story on June 16th (“Revealed: true cost of wind farms”) was an excellent exposé of the eye-watering costs of wind farms and the industry’s absurd claims of job creation.

Yet it missed perhaps the most fundamental point, demonstrated by (amongst others) Prof Gordon Hughes of Edinburgh University.  Wind is intermittent.  It requires conventional back-up, and that back-up must also run intermittently to complement wind.  But the back-up (typically gas) is very inefficient when run intermittently.  Like most large-scale industrial processes, it works best when run consistently.  Thus the net energy contribution from wind farms, and the claimed reductions in emissions, are largely off-set by the inefficiencies in the back-up.

Worse than that, the EU is now talking about “capacity payments” to compensate back-up gas-fired power stations for down-time when the wind blows — otherwise such power stations would be uneconomic and could not be financed.  In effect, we are subsidising wind farms twice over, saving no emissions, but driving prices up, driving industries aboard, and driving pensioners into fuel poverty.  This lunacy must stop.


Lib-Dems out of touch.  As usual.


So the Lib-Dems will not support recognition of marriage in the tax system.  I heard some nameless Lib-Dem MP on the BBC saying he could not see why we should discriminate in favour of married people and thus against single people.  Perhaps he doesn’t realise that the children raised at great expense by married people will hopefully, in a few decades time, be paying the tax revenues that will support the pensions of all of us – single and married alike.  We all benefit one way and another.

Then Nick Clegg (described as the Deputy Prime Minister) says he can’t see why we should favour married parents over unmarried parents.  Because, Nick, as Iain Duncan Smith never tires of reminding us, children of married parents typically do better (on average) on just about every criterion than children of unmarried parents, and so it is in public interest to recognise and incentivise marriage.

Then there’s Danny Alexander, on another subject.  I heard him say that the Coalition was able to undertake major infrastructure investment “now that we’ve got the deficit under control”.  Under control?  What planet is he on?  The UK’s annual deficit (that’s the annual overspend, not the National Debt) is marginally down from the peak, but is stuck at around £120 billion a year.  Roughly 7% of GDP.

If your credit card bill was increasing every year by 7% of your income, would you say your debts were under control?  No.  Nor would I.


CAP/Farm subsidies

I hear a persistent drum-beat of concern from the agricultural community: when Britain leaves the EU, what becomes of the large amounts of Common Agricultural Policy money the farming industry receives from the EU?

In UKIP, we’re working on an up-dated agricultural policy, which will specifically set out how we should handle this issue when we leave the EU.  As it’s work-in-progress, I can’t share the details with you yet.  But I am confident that East Midlands farmers will be encouraged and reassured by our plans.  They have absolutely nothing to fear from Brexit.

Sceptical scientist attacks the Met Office models

From a letter sent by Dr. Norman Page (You’ll find him on the “Climate Denier List”! ) to the UK Met Office:

There has been no net warming since 1997, with CO2 up over 8%.  The warming trend peaked in about 2003 and the earth has been cooling slightly for the last 10 years. This cooling will last for at least 20 years and perhaps for hundreds of years beyond that.  The Met Office and IPCC climate models and all the impact studies depending on them are totally useless because they are incorrectly structured.


The models are founded on two irrationally absurd assumptions.  First that CO2 is the main driver – when CO2 follows temperature. The cause does not follow the effect.  Second, piling stupidity on irrationality, the models add the water vapour as a feed-back to the CO2 in order to get a climate sensitivity of about 3 degrees. Water vapour follows temperature independently of CO2 and is the main GHG.


Furthermore apart from the specific problems in the Met/IPCC models, models are inherently useless for predicting temperatures because of the difficulty of setting the initial parameters with sufficient precision.  Why you think you can iterate more than a couple of weeks ahead is beyond my comprehension.  After all you gave up on seasonal forecasts.


It is not a great stretch of the imagination to propose that the 20th century warming peaked in about 2003 and that that peak was a peak in both the 60 year and 1000 year cycles.  On that basis the conclusions are as follows:


1  Significant temperature drop at about 2016-17

2  Possible unusual cold snap 2021-22

3  Built in cooling trend until at least 2024



Let’s imagine it’s 1781

We’re sitting around in a London Coffee Shop and talking about these new-fangled factories and steam engines.  James Watt has just patented a practical steam engine that delivers continuous power.

Problem is, that’ll mean we need coal.  Lots and lots of it, if all these iron founders and steel masters and factory owners have their way.  But there’s clear evidence that coal mines can produce localised earthquakes (or at least, tremors).  There’ll be pit heads despoiling the countryside, and slag heaps, and open-cast mining, and railways built across the country to deliver the coal and the factory products.  There’ll be air pollution and smog and “pea-soupers”.  There’ll be miners condemned to a working life underground in difficult conditions.  Mining through or near aquifers could contaminate the water supply, never mind the run-off from the slag heaps.

So of course we decide that we simply can’t face the environmental consequences of coal mining, and we’ll stick to water wheels, and wind-mills, and horse power, thank you very much.

Imagine the consequences.  Britain today would be a poor, agrarian society, rife with hunger and poverty and disease.  Every man with an acre and a cow (if he’s lucky).  Of course many of the problems we anticipated in our Coffee Shop did indeed come to pass, and we should be grateful that now in the 21st Century we have a better understanding of our environment, and that we have proper controls over industrial activity that potentially leads to pollution (even if the regulation is sometimes over-the-top).

And what if we had ignored the possibility of North Sea Oil?  We could have predicted that there would be oil rig catastrophes, lives lost, pollution incidents — as indeed there have been.  But does anyone today seriously think that we should have ignored the North Sea?  Of course not.  It played a dramatic role in economic development in the UK, and we should all be poorer today without it.

All these arguments are deployed today against fracking.  Earth tremors.  Contamination of aquifers.  Well-heads despoiling the countryside (though a lot less intrusive than wind turbines).  But in this case we have decades of experience of fracking in the USA (and to an extent in Germany).  We know that the risks are small, we know how to manage them, and we know that they have been greatly exaggerated (though for different reasons) by both Green NGOs and by existing gas interests like Gazprom.

It would be downright irresponsible to turn our backs on fracking, just as it would have been in 1781 to turn our backs on coal and steam and the Industrial Revolution.  Or to turn our backs in the 1960s on North Sea oil and gas.  We must not allow ourselves to be intimidated by Grim Fairy Tales from Greenpeace.

Better Off Out

Over at the Freedom Association, Rory Broomfield is producing an excellent summary of recent EU issues.  Well worth a read.  Find it here.



The EU won’t take NO for an answer

I recently blogged about the parliament’s vote against the Commission’s proposals for “back-loading”.    It’s too complicated to explain back-loading in detail, but it was the first time the parliament had voted for jobs and prosperity ahead of green orthodoxy.

But of course it’s come back again for a second vote, it’s touch-and-go, and the lobbying is in full swing.  I was especially struck by a leaflet from the Polish Chamber of Commerce.  It read “If you accept back-loading, will you give me a job?”.

Back-loading would be a crime against working people across Europe.  But it may well happen. Read more here.


Watch out for the smart meters

We are hearing more and more about “smart meters”, with various proposals to “roll them out” across the UK, whether we like it or not.  On June 18th, I attended a dinner-debate briefing in Brux on the subject.

And I tried, I really tried, to understand what benefits they offer to consumers.  Yet I came away unconvinced.

They tell us that we’ll get correct electric bills in real time, perhaps monthly, rather than those irritating “estimated” bills.  Yet so many of us pay by direct debit on a monthly basis, and it will make no difference there.  For those who pay based on the bill, does it matter if we pay a few quid more or less this quarter when it gets adjusted next time round?

Then they tell us that smart meters will enable us to see how much we’re spending on a minute-by-minute basis, and thus help us to economise.  As if we had nothing better to do than watch a meter constantly, and go turn something off.  The lights?  The central heating? If we want a breakfast cup of tea, will we look at the meter and decide to leave it till mid-morning?   This is a fanciful idea.

The promoters insist that studies show a reduction of 4% in homes with smart meters (although I wonder if this lasts after the first rush of excitement).  Ofgem estimates typical household consumption at 3,300 KWH, with the average bill around £500.  Save 4%, and that’s £20 a year, say 5p a day.  Not worth crossing the road for.

There’s more to this than they’re telling us.  They want to be able to “smooth” demand.  They expect a new generation of domestic appliances (freezers, for example) with a chip that can talk, via the smart meter, to the utility company.  Then they’re looking at “voluntary agreements with consumers” enabling the supplier to cut off the appliances to smooth demand.

How voluntary will that be, when push comes to shove, the wind doesn’t blow and the wind farms are idle?  The government is already this month talking about cutting off power to factories to smooth demand, and we’ll see how voluntary that will be.  The plain fact is that Big Brother wants to get inside your home and turn off your appliances at will.  You’ll hear more of this.  Don’t forget you read it here first.

See Nigel’s Economist interview

Ten minutes of vintage Farage.

EU bans Milk of Magnesia

This is another “Honestly you couldn’t make it up” story, but it appears to be true.  Probably if you’re much younger than my age you may not have used Milk of Magnesia – you probably use Gaviscon – but it’s an old-fashioned remedy relied on to cure indigestion for generations.

And now the EU has decided to ban it.  Not intentionally or by name, of course.  They’ve simply introduced limits for some of the ingredients, and the formulation has one ingredient that exceeds the limit.

It would be interesting to know whether the European Commission has evidence of Milk of Magnesia harming human health.  But I suspect I know the answer.

Tory MEPs in “Purdah”

I understand that as part of their re-selection process, Conservative MEPs are barred from addressing Conservative events in their regions.  In the meantime, if there are any Conservative groups in the East Midlands who need an MEP to tell them why Britain would be Better Off Out, I’d be happy to entertain speaking invitations.  Diary permitting, of course.


Top marks for Francesca

My Brussels staffer Francesca Salierno, who is already fluent in Italian, English and Spanish, has just come top of the class in an internal French course in the parliament.  Well done that lady.


Quote of the Month


“The Budget should be balanced, the Treasury should be refilled,

public debt should be reduced, the arrogance of officialdom should be tempered and controlled, and the assistance to foreign lands should be curtailed, lest Rome should become bankrupt.  People must again learn to work instead of living on public assistance.”     — Cicero, 55 BC

Recently on the blog

Shale Gas: Britain wins the lottery.

Bio-fuels and world hunger: read it here.

Self-delusion on auto emissions (and a great XKR photo). Find it here.

Ken Clarke: On the wrong side of history.

SNP energy policy: a crime against the Scottish people.

Culture Corner

I recently heard on Classic FM a piano concerto “for four hands” (I think that means two pianists) by Carl Czerny.

I’d never heard of him before, and I struggled even to remember the name until I got to Google.  Turns out he was an Austrian composer and pianist, 1791 to 1857.  He spanned the period between Beethoven (who tutored him) and Liszt (who was much influenced by him).

Yet to me at least, he was an unknown.  Right now as I write his four hands concerto is playing on my computer, and it’s wonderful stuff.

If, like me, he’s new to you, let me commend him.  Well worth a visit to Amazon.  I look forward to exploring the remainder of his œuvre. All the way to Opus 861.

In a way, I feel sorry for modern composers.  There’s so much out there, familiar and undiscovered, it hardly seems worth writing any more.


That’s it from Strasbourg for the July session.  Straight Talking takes a break in August.  Back in September.  Please remember to visit my web-site, & my blog. And follow me on Twitter: @RogerHelmerMEP

Also have a look at the UKIP MEP web-site www.ukipmeps.org