Tuesday, 25 August 2015

Clinton on Arctic drilling: Right answer. Wrong reason.

Last week Obama allowed Shell to drill in the Arctic and Hilary Clinton disagreed. She tweeted: "The Arctic is a unique treasure. Given what we know, it’s not worth the risk of drilling.”

That's the wrong reason. Of course drilling for oil does threaten the Arctic. As we saw in the Gulf of Mexico a bad spill can do huge damage that lasts for years. And  it would be worse in the Arctic.

But the key reason is that we DON'T NEED MORE OIL. Our fossil fuel reserves are already four or five times as much as we can ever burn if we want to avoid catastrophic climate change. So, since we need to leave 80% of our oil reserves in the ground, money spent on finding more is money wasted. Money on which there must never be a return.

Obama's policy is like buying more salt when you already have a lifetime supply. Except that you or your heirs could sell the excess salt but there will be no buyers for excess oil.

Tuesday, 18 August 2015

How Cameron is destroying the climate

The Campaign Against Climate Change has summarised the government's recent changes in climate change policy. CACC has found 11 changes that encourage energy use, discourage energy efficiency and tilt the supply-side balance in favour of fossil fuels and against renewables. It's s systematic assault on the climate.

They are (and I quote):

Changes that encourage energy use
  • Massive road-building plans - £15 billion road-building spree still going ahead amid austerity read more
  • Planning an unnecessary new runway in the South East (and quietly ditching previous pledges on Heathrow) read more
Changes that discourage energy efficiency
  • Scrapping the Green Deal for home insulation - What's worse than the weak Green Deal scheme? No support at all. read more
  • Scrapping the Zero Carbon Homes target - supported by housebuilders as well as environmentalists read more
  • Removing tax incentives to buy less-polluting cars read more
Changes that encourage fossil fuel extraction and use
  • More planning changes to fast-track fracking - only 16 weeks allowed for councils or ministers step in read more
  • New tax breaks for fossil fuels - £1.3 billion more announced in March - no cuts here! read more
Changes that discourage renewable energy  
  • Removing onshore wind subsidies - support to end in April 2016 read more
  • Cuts to solar subsidies - endangering the industry in order to save households just 50p-£1.20 a year on bills read more
  • Making renewables pay the climate change levy - this was meant to encourage renewables: it will cost the industry  £3.9 billion read more
  • Planning changes to block onshore wind - making it extremely difficult, even when communities support it. read more

Sunday, 16 August 2015

Green Pioneer: Who Was Fritz Schumacher?

Ernst Friedrich "Fritz" Schumacher (1911–1977) was an influential economic thinker, statistician and economist. He was Chief Economic Advisor to the UK National Coal Board for two decades, wrote “Small is Beautiful” and founded the development charity Practical Action.

Schumacher was born in Bonn in 1911 and educated in Bonn and Berlin and at the universities of Oxford and Columbia. He then worked in business, farming and journalism in Germany. He moved back to England in 1937 to escape fascism but was interned on an isolated farm as an ‘enemy alien’. 

Despite this he wrote a notable economic paper which attracted the attention of John Maynard Keynes. Keynes recognised his ability and enabled him to contribute to Britain’s economic and financial organisation during the war. Later, Keynes found him a position at Oxford University.

From 1950 to 1970 he was Chief Economic Advisor to the UK National Coal Board (ie the nationalised coal industry) from which position he advocated the use of coal rather than oil or nuclear power. He also advised the governments of Burma, Germany, India and Zambia on development issues and wrote widely.
His time in Burma led him to a critique of mainstream economics in the name of “Buddhist economics”.  In 1966 Schumacher and others founded the Intermediate Technology Development Group (now Practical Action). In this context “Intermediate” meant technologies that were more effective than traditional ones but less complex and capital intensive than those used in the West. ITDG insisted that anything it installed should be able to be installed and maintained with skills available locally.
His most famous book – Small Is Beautiful – was published in 1973.
Schumacher’s ideas are not easy to summarise and changed over his lifetime but I would pick out these four:
  • The main purpose of economic activity should be to meet human needs not to create profit.
  • Human needs include the need for meaningful work
  • New and more ‘efficient’ technologies are not always better than old technologies. Each should be judged on its merits.
  • Most needs can best be met by work that is locally organised to meet the needs of the local community.
A number of organisations apart from Practical Action have been inspired by Schumacher’s work. They include the Schumacher College, Resurgence & Ecologist, Green Books, the New Economics Foundation, the Schumacher Center for a New Economics, the Soil Association and the Centre for Alternative Technology.
He also had an intense interest in religion which led him from atheism through Buddhism and meditation to, eventually, Catholicism.
For more information