A Weblog monitoring coverage of environmental issues and science in the UK media. By Professor Emeritus Philip Stott. The aim is to assess whether a subject is being fairly covered by press, radio, and television. Above all, the Weblog will focus on science, but not just on poor science. It will also bring to public notice good science that is being ignored because it may be politically inconvenient.

Thursday, November 24, 2005

The sky is indeed falling in on the Chicken Littles.....

Poor Malcolm Wicks! First he was Minister of State at the Department for Work and Pensions, and now he is Minister for Energy, the two deepest black holes in Labour's galaxy of policy-making. Wicks spent yesterday rushing around the studios looking a tad like a bemused Gimli the Dwarf at the great Council of Elrond. I wouldn't have been surprised to see him with an axe in his hand.

Chickens and their evolution.The trouble is simple. The Chicken Littles of 'Green' utopianism [see them worrying about GM chickens opposite: image in the public domain from Wikipedia] are coming home to roost all at the same time, a theme brilliantly explored today by Richard D. North: 'A big chill will heat up energy debate' (The Daily Telegraph, November 24):
"The gas price is rocketing, and suddenly we've all heard of the 'Interconnector', the gas pipeline distributing gas between the continent and Britain. Our EU neighbours are preserving their supplies - and their competitive advantage - by state mandate, while letting our much freer market suffer steep gas prices.

It's a re-run of problems we saw last March, and it is fuelling calls for British ministers to take an old-fashioned protective interest in the nation's energy supplies. And all this before the Met Office's two-in-three bet that there will be a proper old-fashioned winter this year.

There is one large comfort to be had. We have had far too much discussion of energy policy framed in terms of self-sacrifice: as though virtuous consumers must forgo naughty habits in order to save the world from climate change..."

As North rightly points out, the sky really is now falling in on the Chicken Littles of this world: "Tony Blair has abandoned his messianic devotion to climate alarmism. Some time in the countdown to the Gleneagles G8 summit in July, he seems to have noticed that the Kyoto Protocol would make at best only a minute difference to mankind's emissions of greenhouse gases."

Moreover, North notes that the energy debate is at last becoming vigorous, open, and no longer utopian: "The more idealist greens hate being reminded that voters want more of everything and may well tolerate nuclear power as part of the mix. But nuclear also offends libertarians of another sort: it is a technology that requires very large state support. It requires big subsidies, and a significant security presence. Indeed, hardly anything in this field doesn't offend someone. Global warming 'deniers' insist that climate change will be small or benign. And there will be those who say the market will respond to energy demand, and sooner rather than later."

And, in conclusion, North argues, absolutely correctly, that politicians of all persuasions have for far too long failed to face up to the realities of the looming UK energy gap, cowering instead behind ridiculous windy 'Green' mantras: "We've had an intolerable amount of humbug from politicians about their ambitions for a less energy-hungry future. Now, ministers more clearly see that we want energy and plenty of it..."

Indeed, as Britain plunges into what is predicted to be a cold and snowy weekend, and possibly into a long, freezing winter of discontent, the nonsense of wind energy, the fragility of gas supplies, the ludicrousness of closing down coal-powered and nuclear-powered plants without replacements, and the foolishness of predicating energy policy on long-term climatic uncertainties are all becoming glaringly obvious to ministers, to politicians, and to voters alike.

Bring on the snow, say I! Bury the Chicken Littles. Where energy policy is concerned, we have been drifting for far too long.

Philip, wrapping up for a chilly weekend. Time to get the boots on and the beers in. "Coffee with a touch a brandy or rum?"

[New counter, June 19, 2006, with loss of some data]

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