STRAIGHT TALKING October 2015
Roger Helmer’s electronic newsletter from Strasbourg
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A cracking Party Conference
I thought the Party Conference in Doncaster went remarkably well — many thanks to all those involved in the organisation. I got the impression that the delegates enjoyed it — I certainly did — and went away enthused for the Brexit campaign. If you missed my Energy Speech, find it here – although the video doesn’t include the slide presentation, so some of the points are not as clear as I’d like.
As usual, the media ignored all the positive stuff, and the policy news, at the Conference, and instead produced lurid headlines about “Deep splits in UKIP”, which I think went entirely unseen by most delegates. There were lively debates about strategy — of course there were — but to present that as “deep splits in the Party” is a bit partisan. And dishonest.
A hint of change
We’ve always taken it for granted that the Tory government will support the IN Campaign. I’ve thought that David Cameron was digging himself a serious hole. He’ll come back from his renegotiation exercise, no doubt waving a piece of paper and declaring “Peace in our Time”, but with little or no substantive concessions to talk about — as was the case with Harold Wilson’s renegotiation in 1975. But the media, and UKIP, and Tory back-benchers won’t let him get away with it. The poverty of his achievement will be relentlessly exposed. In short, he’ll look like a fool.
I’ve now seen two members of the commentariat — Iain Martin and Fraser Nelson — tentatively suggesting that Cameron and/or Osborne could come back and say “Sorry guys. We gave it our best shot. But our EU partners weren’t prepared to move anywhere near as far as we needed”. Then they might go on to say either “So we can’t recommend the deal — but we’ll let the people decide”. Or even “Given the obduracy of other EU members, we’ve reluctantly decided to recommend an OUT vote”.
Neither of these outcomes seems likely — but then Cameron won’t get a result he can credibly defend, which leaves him in a bit of a spot. Interesting at least that mainstream media are hinting that there might be a change of heart.
The immigration crisis
As we watch the news reports, it’s becoming ever clearer that the tides of migrants from Africa and the Middle East are predominantly young men (and who knows how many of them are committed jihadists?). Yes, there are women, children and the elderly, but overwhelmingly it’s young men.
A Ukrainian friend points out to me that there is an on-going conflict in Ukraine, fomented by Russia in Eastern Ukraine. But where are the Ukrainian refugees flooding westwards to sanctuary in the EU? There seem to be very few or none. Why is that? It’s because Ukrainian young men of fighting age want to stay at home and defend their country. A pity that the migrants from Syria don’t take the same approach.
We have recently heard the sad news of steel closures in Rotherham and Redcar – thousands of jobs sacrificed to climate hysteria and Brussels diktats (as I said in my Conference Speech). Yet here in the European parliament we are debating proposed “reforms” of the EU’s Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS) specifically designed to cut emissions by forcing up energy prices, tightening on the squeeze on energy-intensive businesses which are already voting with their feet and taking their business, their jobs and their investments out of the EU altogether.
It is heart-breaking that the Commission seems blissfully unaware of the damage it is doing (after all, it’s not Commissioners who are losing their jobs).
Agriculture is not much better. Fertiliser costs are being forced up by emissions controls. Effective (and cost-effective) pesticides are being banned. They will be replaced by older, less effective (and arguably less safe) pesticides. Or we may end up with no local production at all. We’ll import the same crops from other countries which still use the banned pesticides.
Draconian emissions controls are being proposed, which would severely limit the ability of farmers to use tractors. They are talking about controlling methane from the flatulence of cattle (honestly – I’m not making this up). The Commission suggests a higher protein diet – less grass, more soya beans. But that is prohibitively expensive. Another plan is to breed less flatulent cattle. But that’s a hundred-year project – and by 2115, I’m confident that climate alarmism will be no more than a bizarre footnote in early 21st Century history.
Of course breeding less flatulent cattle would be facilitated by GM techniques and cloning — but the EU doesn’t like those either.
In industry after industry, the insouciant Brussels bureaucrats are doing huge damage, and ignoring the consequences. The prospects for European economies are dire.
The Charity Commission
I recently wrote to the Charity Commission in the following terms. I’ll let you know if/when I get an answer.
Dear (CEO) Ms. Sussex,
OxFam political propaganda in schools
I have recently become aware of the activity which OxFam is undertaking in schools regarding Climate Change. Their programme amounts to blatant political propaganda, and is, it seems to me, in breach of their charitable status. I attach a link to some of the material.
There is of course the well-known canard that “97% of scientists support the IPCC position on Global Warming”. This claim has however been comprehensively and effectively rebutted. There is probably a majority of scientists who support that view, but there are very large numbers of highly qualified scientists who dispute the IPCC position, and believe that the effects of atmospheric CO2, and of the (rather small) anthropogenic contribution to atmospheric CO2 have been grossly exaggerated.
There is a serious scientific and political dispute about the underlying theory of climate change, and a separate but related debate about whether the policies adopted by the EU and UK governments are appropriate (even if you accept the IPCC theory). My own party, for which I am the Energy Spokesman, has been prominent in this debate, and I note that the current Conservative government appears to be backing away from its previous commitment to renewables, with subsidy cuts for both wind and solar power.
It seems to me that OxFam’s use of charitable funds and of taxpayers’ money to present a wholly one-sided and propagandist position on a contentious and complex scientific and political issue to schoolchildren is a clear breach of their charitable status – and quite possibly in breach of the 1944 Education Act as well, since that Act requires neutrality in the presentation of contentious political issues in schools.
I should be glad of your view on this question.
Fiddling while Europe burns
During w/c September 21st, I attended a number of events dealing with up-coming “reforms” to the EU’s perverse Emissions Trading System (ETS), and indeed I wrote up two of these events in my recent Blog “Towards a Soviet-style economy“.
On the Wednesday evening, I attended yet another such event, “How to redesign the European Electricity Market to preserve the competitiveness of the energy-intensive industries”. It was a deeply depressing affair. The title recognised the danger – indeed the fact – of “carbon leakage” – that is, of major industries moving out of the EU, closing plants, taking jobs and investment with them, and often going to jurisdictions with lower environmental standards where their emissions would arguably be higher than if they had stayed in Europe. But the debate was all about the itsy-bitsy detail of the allocation of emissions permits, and subsidies and derogations and billing methods, and the real point – how to stop the haemorrhage of major industries – went by default.
It’s a tired cliché, but never more appropriate: they were fiddling while Rome burned.
In my remarks, I started by challenging the title of the event. As Adam Smith would have said, free markets arise through the individual and self-interested decisions of thousands of separate economic actors. Each individual considers only his own interests, but without any planning, out of many separate and individual decisions, a market arises, and that market serves both the market actors and the common good. The market is what mathematicians sometimes describe as “an emergent property” – a form of self-organisation.
The moment you start to assume that bureaucrats and legislators can “design” markets, you have taken a large and dangerous step away from free markets, and towards central planning (as I said in my blog).
I said a great deal more, but I concluded: You intended that the ETS should send a price signal to the market. And so it has. And the signal you have sent to major energy-intensive industries in Europe is “GO TO CHINA!”.
The NO Campaign
As you probably know, there are so far two “No” Campaigns limbering up and hoping to be the official NO Campaign recognised by the Electoral Commission and attracting official funding (though perhaps since the question has been changed, we should now call them the “OUT” Campaigns or the “LEAVE” Campaigns).
UKIP’s position is that we will run our own campaign for Independence; we will support and cooperate with all reasonable people who are campaigning to get Britain out of the EU, regardless of party; but that we will not ourselves, as UKIP, seek to become the official NO Campaign.
In this context, I’d like to draw your attention to the website of one of these two NO campaigns. Well worth a visit. As I write (it may change) there’s an hilarious cartoon on the home page. Worth visiting for the cartoon alone – but there’s much more good stuff there.
COP21 Paris Summit
Climate alarmists are pinning great hopes on the UN Climate Summit in Paris in December. Of course there’s a good chance that there will be no agreement, and an even better chance that any agreed measures will not be implemented. Countries are, in the end, putting forward their own “pledges” of what they will seek to achieve in the way of emissions reductions. Few other countries are so foolish as to emulate the EU – creating an industrial massacre with measures that damage the economy while having virtually zero effect on the environment, (and arguably making matters worse by driving energy-intensive industries to jurisdictions with lower environmental standards).
But along comes Cristiana Figueres, described as “the UN Climate Chief”, with the bad news. She tells us that the bids so far tabled will mean that the target of “only 2oC” temperature rises by 2100 will not be achieved. Instead, we will see 3oC. But even this is better (she tells us) than a “business as usual” approach, which would see increases of 4oC to 5oC.
These claims and precise numerical predictions are simply risible. The one thing we can say for sure about UN/IPCC climate projections is that they have all been wrong, every one. The idea that we can predict exactly what warming we will see in 85 years’ time on the basis of different emissions scenarios is farcical. Yet she says it with a straight face.
There are a number of cyclical and astronomic trends which lead many scientists to believe that we may well see a cooling phase in the 21st century. Temperatures in 85 years may be lower than today’s. How much lower? I don’t know. And you don’t know. And Cristiana Figueres certainly doesn’t know.
Farewell Tony Abbott
Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott was recently ousted. In a reflection on his period in office, he remarked: “We have been a government of men and women, not a government of gods walking the earth”.
His touching admission reminds me of the lines from Tennyson’s Ulysses: “Death closes all: but something ere the end, Some work of noble note, may yet be done, Not unbecoming men that strove with Gods”. Read the whole poem – it’s worth it.
But for a real scary experience, watch this short clip (3 minutes) of Lord Monckton as he predicts the threat to Tony Abbott, and says that Abbott’s warmist opponents would seek to oust him before the Paris climate Conference in December. And they did. Was Monckton right, or was he right? And should we be concerned? You bet we should.
My speech on the EU Energy Summer package
The ETS has been in place for ten years and has totally failed to deliver the intended price signals in the market, despite repeated tweaking (Back-loading, market stability reserve).
Along with other green measures it has forced up energy prices, undermined competitiveness, and driven energy-intensive industries out of the EU altogether. Often they go to jurisdictions with lower environmental standards, arguably driving up emissions.
We have a policy that undermines our economy, costs jobs and closes plants, and yet which may add to atmospheric CO2.
We have been obliged to offer derogations to energy-intensive industries to mitigate the effects of carbon leakage – but this negates a large part of the ETS scheme, and leaves small and medium sized businesses carrying the burden.
Why is it that we in this house, and the other EU institutions, seem to be incapable of facing reality and admitting we were wrong? Here we are yet again tweaking a failed ETS system. Why don’t we have the courage to say “Sorry guys – we meant well – but the ETS has comprehensively failed. We’ll scrap it and go back to the drawing board”?
Just for once, Mr, President, Colleagues, let’s recognise reality and apply some common sense.
Cut green taxes, says the EEF
That’s the Engineering Employers’ Federation, not the European Energy Forum!. The EEF represents thousands of manufacturing and engineering businesses across the UK. And they’ve told the government in no uncertain terms that the mass of green taxes and policies that are impacting on their members is doing more harm than good. It’s slowing growth and undermining competitiveness. They call on the government to promote good environmental practice with incentives, rather than punishing the industry indiscriminately. Carrots, not sticks.
Of course they’re exactly right. I have written extensively about how energy costs, driven largely by green policies and taxes, are forcing energy-intensive businesses off-shore, taking their jobs and investment with them – and arguably increasing CO2 emissions in the process.
Of course we in UKIP would be questioning the need for a draconian emissions policy in the first place, but given that the government has one, they should certainly pursue it in a less damaging way. Regulatory complexity and uncertainty are a huge barrier to growth and investment. I’ve been saying these things for years, so it’s encouraging to see this major employers’ organisation making some of the same points
They’re cracking on fracking
There. I thought the one thing we could rely on in politics was the ideological opposition of the Green Party, and everyone in it, to shale gas in any shape or form. After all, fracking causes earthquakes, doesn’t it? (Actually, no. It’s possibly caused a few minor tremors, but these were within the range of natural background seismic activity. Bigger tremors have resulted from coal mining). OK, but it contaminates ground-water? (A few minor incidents – as there have been with coal or oil – absolutely trivial compared to the Exxon Valdez).
But now it seems the Green front on fracking is cracking. The first Green MSP, one Robin Harper, has given it the OK. Admittedly he puts his change of heart in cautious terms, calling for proper safeguards and regulation (as do we all). But he is prepared to countenance the technology.
This is an important development. The potential of shale gas is enormous. It can deliver wealth, prosperity, jobs, tax revenues, energy security. It would be wholly irresponsible to reject it, and in this context Mr. Harper MSP deserves our thanks and respect. It must have taken some heart-searching and some courage for him to get to that point.
Blair’s Schoolboy Howler
I recently drew attention to an excellent article by Andrew Critchlow warning of the risk of blackouts in winter 2016 as more conventional power stations close, and we rely more and more on intermittent and unpredictable (and expensive) renewables.
But there was one point made by Critchlow, explaining how we first got into this mess, which deserves a further airing. And it’s one more legacy of Prime Minister Tony Blair. I’ll quote it verbatim.
“The suspicion is that Mr. Blair went into European climate talks in 2007 not even knowing the difference between energy –which covered everything from transportation to home insulation – and electricity. Almost a decade later, this possible schoolboy error by Mr. Blair and his negotiating team could lead to blackouts for the first time in living memory”.
It’s easy to see that relying on renewables for “20% of electricity generation” is not at all the same thing as “20% of energy usage”. Of course as Critchlow says we’re dealing here with a mere suspicion – but so far as I know, Blair has not troubled to deny it.
On Sunday September 13th I was taking my morning constitutional — a walk around the local villages — when in Gilmorton I came across a cyclist sitting by the roadside taking a rest. He was an elderly man with grey hair (under his helmet), grey skin and a grey beard. “Good Lord”, quoth I, “It’s Jeremy Corbyn!”. A look of horror passed over his face and he cried “No! No! Please God, No!”. So perhaps it wasn’t Jeremy Corbyn. Or maybe it was, and his response was an example of post-modern irony.
Also have a look at the UKIP MEP web-site www.ukipmeps.org