Thursday, September 11, 2008

Advice taken

It is heart-warming that government has seen fit to pay heed to the advice of an elderly gentleman. The measures that are proposed today to help the poor and elderly are a little timid; nevertheless they represent investment and some recognition that the nation cannot for even continue to binge on the residues of prehistoric creatures.

The energy trade I understand has agreed to contribute some £900 million over three years. This would appear to be a good estimate of the surplus profits they are likely to enjoy as a result of the instability of the market for fuel. And the contribution will be made by voluntary levy, not by additional taxation, as I had advised. I wonder whether Mr Hilary Benn, who has negotiated this, is related to John Benn, a young radical who demonstrated considerable potential, I recall.

I am concerned nevertheless to learn from the excellent Mr Cable that these self-same companies have received considerable subsidies in kind from the government in the shape of free "carbon trading permits". I would wish them neither to be subsidised nor taxed in an arbitrary fashion.

However the nature of the investment strikes me as timid and likely to be ineffective. It appears to be restricted to "insulation" of fashionable kinds that will perpetuate dependence on carbon fuels. Indeed I am assured that the fashion of affixing additional panes of glass, separated by a notional vacuum, is not as effective as is claimed; indeed that the poor are likely to be subject to exploitation by those who would hawk these products. Regardless of the greed of salesmen, the raising of demand for a scarce product may inevitably raise its price. In these circumstances, consumers should by the law of political economy be enabled to substitute alternatives.

It seems to be forgotten that the British are a hardy nation who have resisted colder climates than these for centuries. A set of thick woollen curtains may be as effective as resisting the draught as pieces of plastic and metal and investment in these products might revive the nation's ailing textile industries.

We are also an innovative nation and many will wish to harness new technologies based on the natural sources of energy that emanate from Divine providence, the light and the heat of the sun and the wind created by the turbulence of the waters and the seasons.

I hear it is a frequent ploy of the Queen's ghillie to offer large sums of money to the public and then ensure they remain unspent. I fear this may happen in this instance if a greater measure of flexibility and discretion for householders is not introduced into the scheme.



Geoffrey Kruse-Safford said...

It seems your fair Kingdom is undergoing a debate similar to the one current in our Great Republic. Our problem, I believe, is that while there are alternatives not only considered but active (we have abundant windmills here on the prairies), yet to too many people, it all seems so exotic. Of course, the issue is muddied by industry lobbyists who push such farcical ideas as "clean coal" and nuclear energy (after Chernobyl, I wonder why anyone considers it an serious alternative?).

One hopes the British public are less susceptible to the entreaties of greedy industry insiders than the American public.

WEG said...

Yes indeed. You also have abundant deserts with warm sunshine in a continent blessed in so many ways. I continue to be perplexed that a people so creative and energetic as yours need to look overseas for your sources of energy.

Geoffrey Kruse-Safford said...

Part of the problem is that, initially, our oil was all domestic. The first profitable oil well was drilled in my birth-state of Pennsylvania. Those well, in the northwest part of the state, tapped out pretty quickly, but others were found in Oklahoma (the reason we reneged on our agreement with the Cherokees), Texas, and California. Even in the southern part of Illinois and Indiana, there are oil rigs dotting fields here and there.

The area I live in is home not only to wind, but soybeans and corn grown for ethanol and bio-diesel fuels. Of course, we also have the Byron Nuclear Power Plant close enough to a metropolitan area of about half a million people to cause any Emergency Management Officer to throw up his or her hands and say, "They're all dead", should the think melt down.

Now, hybrids - cars that are similar to submarines, with both electrical and internal combustion engines - are making headway here. There was a news report recently on our National Public Radio that some municipalities have restrictions on fully electric automobiles which hamper their ability to be purchased and used. The state legislature is working to fix that, especially in the city of Chicago, which bans them entirely.

In the southwest there are abundant solar plans, although that tends to be a cottage industry, with individuals putting solar panels on their homes. In the Pacific Northwest and across the upper Rockies in the Yellowstone area (an old volcano that blew itself up) there is geothermal. Of course, with all our great rivers, there is hydroelectric, although that hasn't been taken advantage of nearly as much as it should be. In all, I think people just assume power is both cheap and abundant. It isn't and there are alternatives, but the biggest obstacle to innovation is easy enough to understand - the oil and coal companies block any kind of legislation to reward innovation in non-carbon-based fuels. The automobile industry, which is in many ways a wholly-owned subsidiary of Big Oil, also keeps the lid clamped shut, passing off hybrids as "the best they can do".

This question is not asked out of naivete, but actual ignorance - how does Britain limit the influence of large corporations, or do they, in the formulation of policies such as are discussed here?