October 2012

Cameron’s In/In Referendum

Our Prime Minister is getting ready to offer an EU referendum. But it won’t be In/Out. It’ll be a choice between “More of the Same” and Status Quo. Between 75% of our law made in Brussels, and 100%. It’ll be an In/In Referendum. It’s beyond parody. He thinks it will get him off the hook on Europe, but the British people may take a different view.

Federalism: It’s official

Just occasionally, the EU stops lying about something. In his recent “State of the Union” speech, José Manuel Barroso came right out with it: “Our political horizon (in the EU) is a Federal Union”. And as part of that, he wants debt-pooling, €uro-bonds, a banking union, and a centralised fiscal/taxation policy.

The cat is well and truly out of the bag. But if you want further evidence, those two arch-federalists Andrew Duff (UK Lib-Dem) and Jo Leinen (German Socialist) have put a Petition to the parliament’s Petitions Committee (on which I sit) calling for a “Convention” to take forward proposals for federalisation.

This is an abuse of process. The Committee is there to hear petitions from citizens who feel they are subject to injustice and have no other recourse — not for MEPs to promote their pet projects. They have other routes to do that. I protested on these grounds (as, to be fair, so did my old colleague Giles Chichester MEP). But of course the Committee was keen to go ahead with what they saw as an exciting initiative.

One point I made in Committee — especially addressed to Andrew Duff: all this focus on federation will fan the flames of Euroscepticism in the UK. It will be a gift to UKIP in the run-up to the 2014 euro-elections.

Privately after the session I told Andrew Duff how much I looked forward to introducing him to the very large UKIP MEP contingent that would show up in 2014.

UKIP Conference

It was a great Conference. Check it out here.

Global Warming? The IPCC is getting cold feet!

In 2003 they were quite confident that climate change was man-made. Now they’re carefully hedging their bets. If. But. Maybe.

Third Assessment Report: 2003: “Most of the observed warming over the last 50 years is likely to have been due to the increase in greenhouse gas concentrations”.

Fourth Assessment Report: 2007: “Most of the observed increase in global average temperatures since the mid-20th century is very likely due to the observed increase in anthropogenic greenhouse gas concentrations.”

Fifth Assessment Report: 2012 (draft): “Climate change may be due to natural internal processes or external forcings, or to persistent anthropogenic changes in the composition of the atmosphere or in land use.”

Fighting Wind Farms

I’ve spent a great deal of time and effort helping local protest groups in the East Midlands (and as far afield as Devon) to fight wind farm planning applications, and I’m often asked for advice on how to mount a campaign. Now I find that my good colleague Godfrey Bloom MEP (who’s standing for UKIP in the Yorkshire Police Commissioner election) has done a campaign guide for wind farm protesters.

The Guardian has egg on its face

For some time now I’ve been quoting the work of Professor Gordon Hughes of Edinburgh University who finds, counter-intuitively, that wind turbines do not significantly reduce emissions. This apparently unlikely result arises because the wind is intermittent. So you require back-up, usually gas, to complement the intermittency of the wind. The gas therefore runs very inefficiently, and its output is more expensive, uses more gas, and generates more emissions per unit than if run properly. Back-up and spinning reserve can be compared to a car at the traffic lights — burning gas but not going anywhere. The inefficiency is so great that emissions savings achieved by wind power are trivial or zero.

This is an appalling conclusion. It means that wind farms merely add cost. They do not result in a net reduction in fossil fuel use, or in emissions. They fail in their primary function. They are simply gesture politics, with no practical value whatever. This is the riposte to those who say “While wind farms are ugly and expensive, we will sooner or later need to rely on renewables”. But you can’t rely on renewables if they don’t actually contribute to a reduction in fossil fuel use.

Naturally the Warmist tendency wasn’t going to take that lying down. The Guardian, no less, put its finest on the case. Goodall and Lynas have looked at the argument, and find that Hughes is wrong.

They compared actual output statistics, and found that when the wind is blowing, and wind farms are generating electricity, gas-fired power stations produced less. There was a precise correlation. So Hughes was wrong, and wind farms do reduce fossil-fuel output.

As I pointed out in my blog, however, Goodall and Lynas have missed the point. Of course wind output means lower output from conventional power stations. That’s how the system is designed. Indeed that’s what “back-up” means.

But Goodall & Lynas simply assume that electricity output from a gas-fired generator is a proxy for costs, fuel consumption and emissions. They assume that if output is cut, then emissions must be cut too.

But Hughes’ whole point is that, run intermittently, gas power plants cost more, use more fuel and create more emissions per unit of output than when run properly. Goodall and Lynas have not only come up with the wrong answer. They’ve demonstrated that they don’t even understand the question.

I was gratified to fund that Professor Hughes’ own rebuttal of Goodall & Lynas pointed to exactly the same error.

The Guardian sub-headlined its story “Conclusive figures show that the sceptics who lobby against wind power simply have their facts wrong”. But the figures show no such thing. The only thing they show is the paper’s failure to grasp the issue. The Guardian should hang its head in shame.

Solar PV: maybe one day?

It is quite possible that solar PV could see massive efficiency increases: one company already claims a device that increases efficiency by a factor of 20. At this level, it would actually become economic.

But right now DECC is offering massive subsidies to promote domestic installation of current solar PV technology, which is hopelessly inefficient and uneconomic. Waste piled on waste, when we can ill afford it.

Commission recognises bio-fuel problems

Delicious irony. The European Commission had set a minimum threshold for 10% of petrol and diesel to come from bio-fuels, in order to reduce emissions. They’ve now realised that growing biofuels causes emissions too (and threatens food supplies), so they’ve reduced the figure to 5%, in order to reduce emissions from biofuels. How Alice-in-Wonderland is that?

Politicians don’t understand markets

Cameron proposes to help mitigate the costs of domestic electricity by requiring utility companies to put all customers on their minimum tariff. What effect will that have? The minimum tariff will rise to the current average, and utility company revenues will stay the same. Many customers will pay more. When will politicians and bureaucrats notice that if you tamper with one factor in a market, the other factors will adjust accordingly? Or do they want a Soviet-style system where the government sets prices, and creates shortages?

And now Cameron wants to ban multi-bottle wine offers in supermarkets. Butt out, Prime Minister. It’s none of your business.

Anne Applebaum: What planet is she on?

On Oct 1st, driving to the airport, I listened to Start the Week with Andrew Marr. He had, inter alia, the excellent Helen Szamuely, and Anne Applebaum, on the show. I’d always thought that Anne Applebaum was well-informed, but she said a couple of things on Europe that made my hair curl.

First of all, she insisted that there was no question of countries like Britain being forced to accept EU rules against their will. From memory, she said “EU laws are drafted by diplomats, and British Civil Servants. So there’s no question of the UK having to accept rules it doesn’t like”.

She’s very wrong indeed. EU rules can, by Treaty, only be drafted by the Commission. They are then amended by parliament and by the Council (i.e. the Member-States). But the UK’s voting weight in Council is only around 8%, and successive Treaties have made it more difficult to achieve a blocking minority.

I well remember seeing a Labour Minister in Brussels pleading for the UK to be let off the Temporary Workers’ Directive — and being given the brush-off. There is a huge amount of EU legislation (especially in the employment area) that the UK wanted to refuse, but could not.

Then she added, as a throw-away, that only 5% of UK law came from the EU. Perhaps she’s unfamiliar with the German government study showing that over an extended period some 80% of new German law came from Brussels.

Of course it is difficult to analyse laws in numerical terms, because no two laws are the same. But it’s fair to ask about regulatory costs, and it’s clear that the majority of new regulatory cost comes from Brussels, not Westminster, as studies by the British Chambers of Commerce show.

It’s worrying that the BBC can broadcast such misleading material without challenge. Helen tried to protest, but was not allowed back in.

Harborough Innovation centre: A Postscript

I wrote on my blog about the efforts by Lib-Dem Councillor Simon Galton to get me out of the office at the Harborough Innovation Centre — which cost Harborough Council Tax payers £17,000 in lost rent.

But perhaps I should have extended my comments (and the blame) to the Council Leader. I have just received from an anonymous source a copy of an e-mail from Cllr. Michael Rook dated April 27th. Of course because it’s anonymous, I have no way to check its authenticity, and if Cllr Rook wants to deny it, I shall be glad to hear from him. Frankly the spelling and syntax are so dreadful that he might well want to disclaim authorship anyway.

Here it is, warts and all:

I had know (sic) about this since last Wednesday. Clearly, in conversations with Anna we agreed that this was totally and absolutely untenable. The office accommodation of an MEP does NOT constitute the reasons (I think he meant “meet the criteria”) for the HIC.

Oxford Innovations (sic) had slipped up here, and Rachael Panther has been notified that he has to go. Her problem to sort it! I will be following up that this happens (sic).

Helmer is a complete turncoat,and (sic) I have no respect for him – have worked to get him elected as a Tory – his decision to turn UQIP (sic) after so called retiring left me speachless (sic).

So you be the judge: was Cllr Rook concerned with the detail of tenancy rules, or with personal spite? It seems that in addition to Simon Galton, Harborough Council Tax payers can lay the blame for their £17,000 loss at the door of Cllr. Rook. As for my crossing the floor to UKIP, Cllr. Rook can lay the blame at the door of Baroness Warsi.

First Korea-EU Forum

I attended part of this event on Sept 19th. It was sponsored by the Robert Schuman Foundation, the Korea Foundation and Yonsei University (a leading university in Seoul). We were addressed by the very distinguished former Korean Ambassador to the EU, Park Joon-Woo. He is now a visiting professor at both Stanford University (US) and Yonsei.

He discussed the rather large numbers of North Korean refugees who are showing up in the South, and mentioned that sadly some of them find it difficult to settle in the South, and feel challenged by the bracing blast of free markets and democracy.

Of these (he said) some come to the EU, hoping to find it more to their taste. I am sure that many UK voters, noting the way that powers and competences have been steadily transferred from democratic national parliaments to unaccountable Brussels institutions, would question the legitimacy of our current democratic arrangements, and might well understand why North Korean refugees would feel more comfortable in the EU than in South Korea.

Plastic water-bottles

There’s a new campaign in the parliament against plastic water bottles — which are available at most meetings. Shock horror! We throw away 30,000 empty water bottles a week (they say). They see this as evidence of egregious waste. I see it as evidence of a strong demand for water (of which I drink a lot).

But given the option of incineration with energy recovery, it’s not entirely clear that bottled water is such a bad thing. After all, plastic is essentially processed oil. Why not use the oil first for bottles, later for energy?

As Chairman Mao might say, “Splittists”

It seems that a disaffected former UKIP MEP is trying to set up a rival anti-EU Party, perhaps in emulation of the Referendum Party. But that party was needed because it was unique — no other party was making the same case.

This new initiative seems simply to be a pale shadow of UKIP, and it is driven by personal factors rather than principle. It is a “Me-Too” party; a pale imitation and a forlorn hope. I can’t really put it better that Eastern Region chairman James Moyies has in a letter to his branch chairmen:

“These people will not succeed. Our Party is on the verge of making a major breakthrough in Corby, at next year’s County Elections, and then we will win the European Elections in 2014 and that will be the platform for us to make the real breakthrough at Westminster in 2015.

“Ask these people where they got your contact details and then tell them where to go. Preferably using language that a Cabinet Minister would use.”

We well remember an earlier effort to do a similar thing, also led by a disgruntled (but much more charismatic) MEP, Robert Kilroy Silk. His “Veritas” (or was it “Vanitas”?) party bombed, and he ended up as Bobby-No-Mates, and retired hurt to Spain. In Betjeman’s resonant phrase, he “sank below the sliding stream of time”.

Correction: Parish Councillors

The piece in my September newsletter on the responsibilities of Parish Councillors should have read “Parochial Church Councils”, not “Parish Councils”. I understand that my error led to some concerns amongst Parish Councillors, and I apologise to them for that.

Conclusion

That’s it from Straz for the October session. Please remember to visit this website, my blog at http://rogerhelmermep.wordpress.com, and follow me on Twitter: @RogerHelmerMEP

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