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.

Monday, May 15, 2006

Protean capitalism 'sequesters' carbon as only it can.....

Marx rightly stressed the protean nature of capitalism, which is, of course, one of the hallmarks of its evolutionary and adaptive success. It is this protean nature which helps capitalism to absorb - nay, 'sequester' - any radical challenges to its dominance, turning a seeming stumbling block into opportunity knocks, although attempted 'planning' by government can result in chaos.

Nothing illustrates this more than the EU's Alice-in-Blunderland trading scheme for carbon credits, which is both a shambles, because of governmental 'direction', and a glorious example of how capitalism can still make anything its own and turn it to advantage, or, indeed, to chaos, from trading your grandmother to your so-called 'carbon footprint'. The 'command-and-control' of the Kyoto Protocol, and the wishful thinking of the new authoritarian Left, have thus been transmogrified into shimmering curves on the trading screens of the world.

The most recent debacle is a classic:

(1) On Friday, the European Commision (EC) accidentally published market-sensitive figures on the internet which were not due to be released until today. The Independent (May 14) takes a particularly cynical view of all this: "The figures revealed that most EU countries had in effect fiddled their pollution levels to avoid paying carbon taxes";

(2) While 15 EU countries seem to have 'polluted' less during the last year than their target allocations for 2005, five countries (including, predictably, the UK - 31.3m tonnes above its 2005 allowance) are deemed to have 'polluted' more than their allocations. British companies must thus buy in carbon credits to balance their books. For example, Drax coal station (Europe's largest coal-fired plant, located in north Yorkshire), which generates c.8 per cent of the UK's electricity, might have to spend £74m on buying such credits - "Drax!";

(3) Somewhat unsurprisingly, The Guardian (May 13) asserts, "... the five UK companies [apparently RWE npower, Scottish Power, Scottish & Southern Energy, International Power and Drax] are now suing the EC at Europe's second highest court, the court of first instance (CFI) ... They are demanding the reinstatement of 20m tonnes of extra emissions rejected by Brussels";

(4) Meanwhile, back in Brussels, between the moules and the frites, the European Commission is itself threatening to sue the British Government because the Department for Environnment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) is refusing to meet the EC deadline of next month to submit its application for the second phase of the scheme, covering 2008-2012;

(5) And, finally, what about the market itself? Inevitably, carbon prices fell by almost one-third on Friday, to as little as €8.6 a tonne, compared with highs of €30. Further pressure on the market is expected today when the figures are actually meant to be released.....

So, there you have it - the scheme of schemes to save the planet (as if it cares). In reality, of course, because it is a governmental 'plan', not a 'natural' market, the whole concoction just bogs up industrial planning, lines the pockets of lawyers and eurocrats, distorts any real market, allows governments to play national politics, and, under the cloke of action, probably permits carbon emissions to go on rising.

Now, as you all know, that doesn't worry me too much - but what a spectacular farce. I am so glad that European ecochondria and 'Green' authoritarianism have foisted this onto us. Did the politicians not see it coming?

Capitalism will take any nonsense about carbon dioxide (and we are being fed nonsense in enormous retorts) and turn it into a field day for rogue trading all round. The beast will gobble up the 'Greens' for breakfast. Just witness the 'organic' meat market - lots of T-bones to pick over there!

You can bet on it! And the winners, as ever, will be the touts, the lawyers, and the bureaucrats.

Climate-change politics are some of the daftest on the planet. And the idea that we can manage climate-change predictably is the daftest conceit of them all.

But beware the vested interests in the 'global warming' myth! They are legion.

Philip, thinking it might be time to trade hot air in a rising market, although I don't think the bears will like it. It's total bull anyway. Coffee - strong and double.

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

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