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« Hudson on the ice | Main | Saturday open thread »

Transparency and culpability

I return to the blogging saddle to find little changed. The Guardian's campaign to put the lights out continues apace, promoting a campaign to get universities to divest from fossil fuel companies and trying to pin the blame for power system chaos on the big six energy firms.

Looking on the bright side, there are at least the hint of some changes in the government line:

Some green charges will be scrapped while others will be taken off bills and instead funded by Government directly. If extra public money is needed to pay for this, that will be provided by additional spending cuts.

I imagine that no charges will be scrapped, although at least we might get some transparency over costs if they become direct rather than hidden in power bills. If so, it would be interesting to see if the Guardian's campaign against the energy companies holds water.



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Reader Comments (63)

GreenAngelChloe doesn't seem to get much support at the Grauniad for this

It's clear what a competent government should be doing. Shut down the Big 6 and their casino operations, close all remaining coal and nuclear plants, start to phase out natural gas, base energy policy firmly on negawatts and bring down demand to a bare minimum.
Bring in rationing, cut all unnecessary commerce to the bone, put people to work in their local communities growing food and building communal energy-efficient housing on passivhaus lines.
Shift our energy descent up several gears. Enact strict but fair ecocide laws. For the first time in our abysmal "modern" history, put the planet first.

The question is 'is she a useful idiot or just a product of the dumbed-down and propagandised education sytem'?

Oct 28, 2013 at 7:41 AM | Registered CommenterPhillip Bratby

Do you really consider green measures as one an item within the government's £600 billion plus budget is going to be less "hidden" than one that appears every month on peoples' energy bills?

Oct 28, 2013 at 7:42 AM | Unregistered CommenterChandra

PB - she sounds like a parody to me. But as Geoff Chambers recently demonstrated at his blog - in re V. Westwood et al - anything is possible.

The implicit threat of cutting spending - as though there is not a penny of wasteful spending that could be cut anyway - seems to me like a way of punishing the nasty planet-haters politically. Guess what - the "cuts", if any, will be in high profile areas, not in reducing the number of overpaid and un/counter-productive bureaucrats.

Oh, and welcome back, Bish. Haven't we been good little boys and girls while you were away? :)

Oct 28, 2013 at 7:48 AM | Registered Commenterjohanna

The two articles you quote are from the Observer. They still have separate editorial teams, though they share a website. Over at the real Guardian, their readers’ editor explains the censorship policy at CommentisFree

Philip Bratby
GreenAgeChloe is the education system. Last I heard she was working as a teaching assistant in a primary school.

Oct 28, 2013 at 7:56 AM | Registered Commentergeoffchambers

We're now seeing the Communists having to face reality, which is that 'to save the planet' by reducing power generation, they're going to have to introduce forced labour a la Pol Pot.

Fine, so long as you are not one of those to be killed.

Oct 28, 2013 at 8:16 AM | Unregistered CommenterAlecM

What puzzles me is that taking green charges off utility bills and subsuming them in general taxation is supposed to be a serious response to public opinion etc etc. But I'm still paying them, am I not, through taxation, so what exactly is the difference? Or are we in the game of perceptions here, including the polticians perception of the stupidity of the electors? Is the argument that if people don't see explicitly green taxes on energy bills, they won;t worry their little heads about the whole issue? Which leaves open the door for a more radical approach: get rid of green taxes altogether and cut the overall rate of tax. Might be a few votes in that.
Interestingly on the Radio 4 news programme at 10pm yesterday Rees Mogg advocated getting rid of green taxes altogether, to which the LibDem responded that that would mean standing the whole decarbonisation and climate change policy on its head. Quite so.

Oct 28, 2013 at 8:30 AM | Unregistered Commenterbill

I agree with Bill that simply transferring the costs of green policies from our energy bills to taxes would not be an improvement. In some ways it would be worse because it would make it easier for the government to conceal how damaging the costs are.

Oct 28, 2013 at 8:39 AM | Unregistered CommenterRoy

If you do not stop the subsidies then the economy will fall like a pack of cards like France is going, this was a Gordon Brown trick of having taxation outside Govt figures but still someone has to pay somewhere.

Oct 28, 2013 at 8:51 AM | Registered CommenterBreath of Fresh Air

GreenAgeChloe is the education system. Last I heard she was working as a teaching assistant in a primary school.
Oct 28, 2013 at 7:56 AM | Registered Commenter geoffchambers

Was that in Brighton or North Korea?

Oct 28, 2013 at 8:52 AM | Registered Commenterlapogus

A representative from the UK energy industry was on the CNBC this morning. They tried to corner her but she came out fighting saying that the details have been on energy bills for some time including their profits and the green taxes.

Oct 28, 2013 at 8:52 AM | Unregistered CommenterStephen Richards

Just who is this "GreenAngelChloe"?
From her policy statement it would appear that she is Pol Pot's daughter is still trying to fulfil his "Year Zero" dream.
Just to remind everyone what this was about;
City dwellers were relocated to the countryside to work in collective farms and forced labour projects with the goal of restarting civilization in "Year Zero". The combined effect of slave labour, malnutrition, poor medical care and executions had an estimated death toll of 750,000 to 1.7 million.

Oct 28, 2013 at 9:03 AM | Unregistered CommenterDon Keiller

I wouldn't mind building a passivehaus if I could afford to buy any building land near where I work. I wonder why it is so expensive? Oh that's right - it's due to all these sodding treehuggers.

By the way, AlexM if you want to look like a spittle-flecked wingnut to reasonable people, just keep bringing up communism and Pol Pot. It's not as if there were any right wing dictators after all were there?

Oct 28, 2013 at 9:06 AM | Unregistered CommenterJamesG

Green Subsidies MUST remain shown on energy bills.

The big-6 should fight back, and itemise those extraneous costs they're forced to bear, so that consumers can clearly see the effects of Energy Policy on their household budget.

Oct 28, 2013 at 9:08 AM | Unregistered CommenterJoe Public

Also in the Guardian/Observer, paragon of virtue and integrity Chris Huhne assures readers that
"Green taxes will ultimately cut our bills as well as saving energy".

The commments underneath are fabuous. Lord_Lupin:
"Words fail when I read these unkind comments about this selfless, devoted public servant who has sacrificed so much for the good of us dumb plebs."
"An excellent article by someone whose honesty and sincerity is beyond dispute.
Having been a global warming sceptic, I must say, this concise, hard-hitting article from someone I admire and have the utmost respect, as a husband, MP and driver, has me convinced."

Oct 28, 2013 at 9:13 AM | Registered CommenterPaul Matthews

In the great debate, the costs of green initiatives and green energy are discussed, but nobody dares mention that the costs are also being driven up by the big six not being allowed to provide electricity from the cheapest source, namely new, highly efficient, super-critical coal-fired power stations, This is a side-effect cost of going green, hidden from the public gaze.

Oct 28, 2013 at 9:17 AM | Registered CommenterPhillip Bratby

Paul: Doea anybody believe somebody convicted of committing perjury?

Yet again, no mention of the effect on bills of not utilising cheap coal.

Oct 28, 2013 at 9:21 AM | Registered CommenterPhillip Bratby

I think it could go either way. Sometimes it is politically too difficult to kill something off in the full light of day, so it is renamed, merged into another department, and quietly smothered later. But I'm not so hopeful yet. Perhaps this will, or won't, happen in the new Australian government. I expect Johanna can keep us posted on any progress.

Oct 28, 2013 at 9:25 AM | Unregistered Commentermichael hart


It really is a bit depressing reading the comments on the Guardian. A lot of commenters use quantity over quality argument. As in there are so many papers published that support the AGW view, man is causing climate change.

No idea that you need experimental evidence to back up claims. And that means a lot of hard work and humility.

And why is that so many people think that you need to provide evidence to the contrary to "disprove" AGW? You can just as easily point out a flaw in concept, method and assumptions.

Science isn't a debate where the strongest voice wins. It's not rhetoric. The method is the truth.

But then again humans are emotional creatures and we tend to follow the herd.

Oct 28, 2013 at 9:32 AM | Unregistered CommenterMicky H Corbett

Yesterdays Scottish Sunday Herald quoted Professor Gordon Hughes of Edinburgh on the topic of energy prices.
Gordon Hughes (a former senior adviser on energy at the World Bank) was supportive of the energy companies position.
He claimed that far from super profits being made the present margin position barely covers world price increases and future investment undertakings.
He was highly critical of politians who he accused of "professional ignorance and hierocracy".

Oct 28, 2013 at 9:33 AM | Unregistered CommenterBryan

Roy and Bill, I have to disagree.

The transfer of these "green" charges to general taxation would cost me personally more, as a higher rate tax payer, but would reduce the burden on those who cannot pay, especially the elderly who, even in the unlikely event that the warmists are completely correct in every aspect, are unlikely so see any benefit from these charges within their own lifetimes.

Oct 28, 2013 at 9:37 AM | Unregistered Commentersteveta_uk

Since the Guardian is doing a good job at destroying itself, why no take the country with it!

Oct 28, 2013 at 9:54 AM | Unregistered CommenterConfusedPhoton

JamesG wrote:

By the way, AlexM if you want to look like a spittle-flecked wingnut to reasonable people, just keep bringing up communism and Pol Pot. It's not as if there were any right wing dictators after all were there?

AlexM's comments were based on remarks by GreenAngelChloe. I thought the comparison with Pol Pot was quite apt since the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia did turn their backs on modern civilisation and force people to abandon cities and work on the land.

There have been plenty of right wing dictators but I cannot think of any who were in favour of de-industrialisation. Perhaps you can.

Oct 28, 2013 at 9:58 AM | Unregistered CommenterRoy

JamesG: fascism is the politics of the left and is associated with a total disdain for human rights.

This GreenAngelChloe eejit is exactly the same as the Trotskyites who tried to recruit me in the 1970s. They want to kill those who do not agree with them.

Oct 28, 2013 at 10:10 AM | Unregistered CommenterAlecM

When some BBC depts were secretly privatised and sold to Grantham/Greenpeace was the Guardian thrown in for free ?
- I honestly don't know why you bother with it ...The Guardian is just some comic put out by a bunch of activists from the back of their squat.
- The Sun with 8 million in sales, had a double page spread on Friday with the message "Get Fracking Now"

- all Cameron has to do is annoy the Libs. Then stage an election & get another 5 years ..on the promise of reducing energy prices

10am news : Intergen will spend a £1bn power station at exisiting site in Spalding of another one in Essex
"Two InterGen gas-fired power generation projects at Spalding in Lincolnshire and Gateway Energy Centre in Essex, the latter being an investment of £600m." (Construction News ...shows almost all renewable projs are tiny)

- Bad weather hits 1/4 of the country & takes up 100% news, cos it's our colonial masters in the southeast who are feeling it
- Radio Lincolnshire has been ready to report the exciting storm, but it never even made it up to the county . Yesterday afternoon was far more stormy.

Oct 28, 2013 at 10:12 AM | Registered Commenterstewgreen

- What about news media in other countries ? There must be some countries where the Climate Story is being told fairly ? I know most countries are apathetic, but maybe Czech Rep, or Taiwan or Korea ?
- Here in UK it seems that there is a public relation rule "quash all DOUBT about your product" ..and the Guardian's job is to enforce that on Climate narrative doubt.

Oct 28, 2013 at 10:17 AM | Registered Commenterstewgreen

Isn't it strange that the ideal, or the practice (not often practised), of having government policy-making visible to all is regarded and labelled one of 'transparency'. Transparent things can be difficult to impossible to see.

Oct 28, 2013 at 10:27 AM | Unregistered CommenterBob Layson


Totally agree with your point. I don't pay higher rate now I am retired (although the boy George keeps lowering the threshold closer and closer). Putting Green Taxes on energy bills affects the poorest the most. BUT as we know those running the big CO2 killing machine are not worried about people.

Oct 28, 2013 at 10:36 AM | Registered Commenterretireddave

Bob, it's transparent in that you can see through what they are proposing so easily.

Oct 28, 2013 at 10:37 AM | Unregistered Commentersteveta_uk

TODAY 7.30pm Yorkshire region BBC1 Paul Hudson introduces prof who will talk about possible cold climate change (10 minute piece)

I paraphrase what I saw on a warmist blog the other day
"Wow those idiot deniers, their position is that oh there is a coming ice-age.. what a bunch of idiots. lah, lah, lah, they should not be allowed to mislead children"

..of course they are twisting by picking an extreme. Pauls expert actually said :
"The risk of a period of harsh winters and unsettled summers in northern Europe and the UK has gone up from less than 10% a few years ago to 25-30% today." ..the prog webpage has a full page of background info

- "Climate is heavily influenced by the sun", has been one of Paul's saying for a long time Tonight his prof friend will explain a correlation pattern between recent years and the introduction to other colsd periods like the Maunder Mininmum. (The trailer mentions coldest point at 2050) It's not that every summer/winter will be cooler, just that there will be more cooler than warmer periods.

(Oh FFS, Vicky Pryce is on R4 now for 2nd time in 24 hours)

Oct 28, 2013 at 10:40 AM | Registered Commenterstewgreen

My dad mentioned he'd heard that part of the reason Grangemouth is increasingly uncompetitive is that fracking in the US had drastically reduced their costs. This article linked to by BoFA above supports that view.

Yer man makes a lot of good points, I wonder if we could get him in as PM?

Oct 28, 2013 at 10:41 AM | Unregistered CommenterNial

- costs are also being driven up by the big six not being allowed to provide electricity from the cheapest source, namely new, highly efficient, super-critical coal-fired power stations.

I agree in principle, Phil, but this runs the risk of putting the power (no pun intended) back in the hands of the Miners' Union ... not sure whether this is preferable to China and France having that position.

What is really needed is more fracking for natural gas. And soon!

Oct 28, 2013 at 10:43 AM | Unregistered CommenterYertizz


Of course there have been right wing dictators in the strict application of their "world" view but even the NAZIs were the National Socialist Party.

I don't think it matters to most if they are being oppressed and killed by the right or the left. I think they are not left and right anyway but a circular continuum where they reside side by side.

BUT I think you will find that Stalin and Mao alone between them killed more millions in the name of the people than the right-wing ever could.

I am a libertarian so I hate both ends of the spectrum, or that part of the circle whichever way you see it.

Oct 28, 2013 at 10:46 AM | Registered Commenterretireddave

Yertizz my friend. Who said the coal has to be British? There is plenty of cheap coal on the world market, as the Germans are discovering. And yes, let's get fracking asap.

Oct 28, 2013 at 10:50 AM | Registered CommenterPhillip Bratby

Phillip, my friend ..................OOPS!

Oct 28, 2013 at 10:52 AM | Unregistered CommenterYertizz

@ Nial

A petrochemicals plant is fuelled by either naphtha, LPG, or natural gas. In most cases, you don't care which, and you buy the cheapest feedstock.

Abundant US shale gas has had an indirect effect on the value of crude oils rich in naphtha, in that US buyers are no longer bidding for the naphtha. This will tend to reduce the price. Ineos' petrochemical plant must rely on either local gas or on naphtha, so although there will have been a small reduction in naphtha cost, it's not as much as the two-thirds or so feedstock cost reduction enjoyed by US competitors, who are buying fracked shale gas.

Should Grangemouth close due to poor margins, the loss of jobs will be entirely due to our failure to embrace shale gas soon enough to keep it competitive. These are in fact green-driven job losses but oddly they never feature in the claims about how great greenery is for jobs.

Oct 28, 2013 at 10:56 AM | Unregistered CommenterJustice4Rinka

@Micky H Corbett "Science isn't a debate where the strongest voice wins. It's not rhetoric. The method is the truth."

- exactamente, The BBC Tech radio show covered PopSci Magazine ending of reader comments . So I went to the prog FB page and made posts explaining the contexts of green/left censor cos we can't win policy. Then a young commenter attacked me to explain "science is about consensus and you don't have any authority" ..I of course said "No, it's about finding truth" ("cos it works bitches" (Dawkins quoting Randall Munroe ))
- the kid then went onto some massive circular argument to justify himself .. I left him to it

Oct 28, 2013 at 11:02 AM | Registered Commenterstewgreen

It appears the the Guardian may have the right cause for all the wrong reasons.

The cosy relationship between the big 6 and government is the direct result of RedED's disastrous period as Environment Secretary, coupled with Cameron's fatal mistake (one of many) of bribing the LibDims with the environment portfolio.

Oct 28, 2013 at 11:03 AM | Unregistered CommenterKevin Lohse

The green taxes on the bills are only a small part (and the only visible part) of the problem. They amount to less than 10%. The real problem is the distortion of the enrgy markets by government policy. The real costs per MW-Hr of various forms of energy in the UK, courtesy of DECC, but with the fallacious "Cost of Carbon" stripped out are:

Central Levelised Costs, £/MWh:

Gas - CCGT £61
Coal - ASC with FGD £57
Coal - IGCC £66
Nuclear - FOAK £81
Offshore R2 (wind) £118
Offshore R3 (wind) £134
Solar250-5000kW £169
Onshore >5 MW E&W14 (wind) £104
Onshore >5 MW UK (wind) £93
Dedicated biomass >50MW £122
Dedicated biomass <50MW £117
Co-firing Conventional £92
Biomass Conversion £110

So coal is clearly king. And not phasing out coal and converting Drax would surely reduce demand for gas.

Source: 65713/6883-electricity- generation-costs.pdf

Oct 28, 2013 at 11:06 AM | Unregistered CommenterThinkingScientist

The EU is doing its best to bury shale gas under a mountain of regulations.

Oct 28, 2013 at 11:16 AM | Unregistered CommenterSchrodinger's Cat

I’ve set up a new blog at the suggestion of Stewgreen on Unthreaded for those who can’t or won’t comment at the Graun
I’ll probably set up separate threads for individual articles, plus a roll of honour for those who've been banned to out themselves.
What I’d really like is some Kamikaze volunteers to publicise it at the Graun itself.

Oct 28, 2013 at 11:25 AM | Registered Commentergeoffchambers


When a person is so deep on the Kool-aid, as many greens are, rational view and any idea of science, go out of the window.

Criticism of Paul Hudson is just on a par with the church congregation who believed that the world was going to end, and when it didn't believed their Pastor when he said "oh wait a minute, I think I divided by zero somewhere - I will work it out again"

The parallels with Climate Science and the end of the world prediction are obvious for all to see - but the faithful want to believe that the High Priests are right and will clutch at any excuse.

This is where the Gruniad and the BBC come in to the picture. I gave a presentation to a group of people recently entitled "Things you will not read in the Gruniad or see/hear on the BBC".

Some folks were staggered to learn (because I never present anything but facts) that -

There is 50% more ice in the Arctic for October this year than there was last year.

That boats and expeditions were stuck in the ice in the Northwest passage in September (in the very year it was all going to have melted).

That the 2013 hurricane season has been the quietest for decades. Despite predictions of the opposite

That the US Tornado count has been lower than average in 2013. Despite predictions of the opposite.

That Hurricane Sandy in 2012 ( a very interesting meteorological event) was not extreme and barely a hurricane. That one hurricane in that area in 1938 had gust speeds double those of Sandy, though similar storm surge.

That the last few years have seen all time low records broken in Alaska, Finland, Siberia, China etc. (in a Northern Hemisphere that was predicted to have increasingly milder and wetter winters).

None of these things prove that AGW is completely wrong, but they should cause real weather/climate people to pause and take a balanced view - that is what I see Paul Hudson doing. Good for him

Oct 28, 2013 at 11:29 AM | Registered Commenterretireddave

steveta, leaving aside individual gains/losses, the point is, whether green charges are explicitly attached to energy bills or just part of overall taxation, the citizen is still paying for them. So how is that shift a benefit? Taxes + separate energy bills supplements = £xx; taxes including energy bills supplements also = £xx. So whats the point? Is it a diversionary tactic, a case of being 'seen to be doing something', having noted that the public don't pay much attention to detail and just get the headline bit, 'your fuel bills are now going to be less'. What we are emphatically not seeing is the scrapping of green charges, we're just being offered a more (presumably) palatable way of paying them.

Oct 28, 2013 at 11:30 AM | Unregistered Commenterbill

TIP : to reduce eyestrain : on CHROME High Contrast extension ..yellow on black works for me
- Other ideas
- cmd+opt+ctrl+8 on a MAC will invert the screen.

Oct 28, 2013 at 11:39 AM | Registered Commenterstewgreen

@retireddave How many said "yes all that might be true, but you aren't a climate scientist are you Dave ... now I read in the BBC / Guardian the other day" ? have to kick the wall a few times to knock it down

Oct 28, 2013 at 11:48 AM | Registered Commenterstewgreen

That comment by GreenAngelofDeath is incredibly helpful because it finally lays out the options in a way that the general public can understand. Do you want to die of starvation/hunger/both in a Pol Pot style death commune (high probability) or do you want to die from miscelaneous poorly specified side effects of the planet becoming a little bit warmer over the next 100 years (low probability)?

Not sure why one of the earlier posters was getting hot under the collar about right versus left wing dictators. These terms are pretty obsolete now, and were never really very helpful in the past.

Facism: state control of the individual
Socialism: state control of business
Communism: state control of both

No other distinction is necessary, and whatever 'wing' they come from, the jackboots are just as dangerous when they come to kick your door down.

Oct 28, 2013 at 11:56 AM | Unregistered CommenterMax Roberts

stewgreen - here in the south west we felt it too and have only just had our power restored. We had a couple of branches off trees, but minimal damage.

I wonder how many other (apart from the one in Devon) wind turbines came crashing down? Lots, I hope.

Oct 28, 2013 at 12:02 PM | Unregistered CommenterGrumpy

Grumpy : the clean up crews will be on standy to remove photo opportunities ... check your local turbine , before it's cleaned up

Oct 28, 2013 at 12:11 PM | Registered Commenterstewgreen

Bill, I stand by what I said. I think it is obscene to load the extra charges on the poorest and the elderly - if the extra charges are unavoidable, then load them into those who can pay.

It's particularly nasty for the likes of Hulme to claim that much of the money goes to the poorest so they can insulate homes, reduce energy usage, etc. As the eejit should be perfectly aware, the poorest people in general do not own property, so are unable to do anything about adding insulation, and they cannot install windmills in non-existant gardens, or install solar panels on B&Bs or tower blocks. They do not own new appliances, so cannot replace them all with AAA rated fridges and ovens and washing machines - they use whatever is available at a price they can manage.

This is for me the most evil part of the LibDem green agenda - loading the additional costs of what they may believe is a good thing onto the people who can least afford it.

Oct 28, 2013 at 12:46 PM | Unregistered Commentersteveta_uk

"Some green charges will be scrapped while others will be taken off bills and instead funded by Government directly"


Some green charges will be scrapped the rest will be hidden from the taxpayers that fund them.

Oct 28, 2013 at 12:54 PM | Unregistered Commenterjaffa

"By the way, AlexM if you want to look like a spittle-flecked wingnut to reasonable people, just keep bringing up communism and Pol Pot. It's not as if there were any right wing dictators after all were there?

Oct 28, 2013 at 9:06 AM | JamesG "

Eh? I would hope that 'reasonable people' would actually know enough about the history of dictators to recognise that Pol Pot is the most relevant comparison here. Did Hitler, Mussolinii, Franco, Pinochet etc. etc. set out to de-industrialise their respective countires? No, and neither did Stalin.

Oct 28, 2013 at 1:03 PM | Unregistered CommenterDaveS

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