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« More evidence that green jobs are illusory | Main | A Fracking Time - Josh 235 »

A feature, not a bug

Eyebrows have been raised over Chris Huhne's landing a job with a US bioenergy business, reportedly worth £100,000 for two days a week, shortly after being released from prison for perverting the course of justice. Priyanka Shrestha, writing at Energy Live News, wonders if maybe crime does pay.

She's right of course. We at Bishop Hill have noticed that there is a curious tendency among those involved with energy policy to move on to extraordinarily lucrative jobs in the energy industry. And it's not just the politicians, it's the civil servants too. PJ O'Rourke has observed that when politicians decide what gets bought and sold, the first thing bought and sold is the politicians. Deals for the purchase of civil servants are not far behind though.

So make no mistake. Corruption is a feature of "government energy policy", not a bug.

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Reader Comments (60)

On the corruption of business; a few years ago I had a discussion on usenet with a bloke who was sounding off about a candidate he had interviewed for a job. There were two applicants, both were at University and had resits to pass in order to go back after the summer. He had asked both "If you pass your exams will you resign and go back to your studies" and was incensed that one had answered "Yes". He gave the job to the other one. I tried to point out that he had rejected the honest candidate and employed a probable liar, but I couldn't work out if he didn't get the point or didn't see any problem with recruiting liars. (I forget the details, but it wasn't in any way a graduate level job).

Aug 22, 2013 at 4:27 PM | Unregistered CommenterNW

Not only that... According to the London Evening Standard, the Cambridge Public Policy Initiative has invited Huhne to give a keynote address on Sept 5 as part of a module on policy and regulation.

Aug 22, 2013 at 7:31 PM | Unregistered CommenterSchrodinger's Cat

Aug 22, 2013 at 2:48 PM | Frank

Huhne's new employer (Zilkha Biomass Energy) sell a "coal-replacement" made from renewable biomass - almost certainly by using fossil fuel to remove water from biomass. Government regulation allows them to sell their products for more than fossil fuel.

Wouldn't it be possible to make a "coal-replacement" by sticking £5 notes together to form small brick-shaped objects that could be burnt in wood burning stoves? This would not be as expensive as it might seem at first sight since the Bank of England could easily replace the £5 notes used as fuel by continuing with its policy of "quantitative easing."

Aug 22, 2013 at 7:57 PM | Unregistered CommenterRoy

This foray into the corrupt world of renewable bio-based fuels reminds me of the need to investigate if at least part of the precipitating factor in the so-called Arab spring was the price hikes in basic foods?
The general opinion seems to be to blame the cost of food for at least some of the aggravation that the Muslim Brotherhood seized to muscle their way into power. If so, then we can lay this at the feet of the AGW profiteers who have forced food crops to be used for fuel by way of mandates and tax/price subsidies.
So AGW hype has cost thousands of lives, dangerously destabilized an important part of the world, disrupted millions of lives, all for profits on useless bio-fuels.

Aug 22, 2013 at 8:31 PM | Unregistered Commenterlurker, passing through laughing

It is worth noting that, of the 3 key fertiliser bases, only the Nitrogen ones are usually derived from fossil fuels. The other two - Phosphate and Potassium - are extracted from minerals.

With regard to Biofuels, it is not quite so black & white: there are shades of grey (no, not the book). So-called second-generation fuels made from plant or food waste do not adversely impact food production. However they are very much a niche product.
There is an ironic twist to the biofuels saga. Glycerol/glycerine is the basis of a multitude of cosmetics and pharmaceuticals. Nowadays the prime source is as a by-product (after refining) of manufacturing bio-diesel. That market is dominated by US production which uses GM Soya as its feedstock.
It is sadly amusing to think of the "chatterati" spending fortunes on face creams and the like which are sourced from GM crops, are unsustainable in carbon terms and exacerbate food poverty.

Aug 22, 2013 at 10:15 PM | Registered Commentermikeh

It is worth noting that, of the 3 key fertiliser bases, only the Nitrogen ones are usually derived from fossil fuels. The other two - Phosphate and Potassium - are extracted from minerals

quite right but these minerals need fuel to mine and refine them !

Aug 22, 2013 at 10:30 PM | Unregistered Commenterdave38

Liquid ammonia can be injected into soil as a fertiliser

And the ammonia is commonly produced from the excess hydrogen produced in methanol reformation, which is a fairly energy-intensive process.
As for Kiefer's terminology, I believe he is correct - nitrogen in ammonia form is bio-available, and is therefore considered to be 'fixed' nitrogen.

Aug 22, 2013 at 11:03 PM | Unregistered Commenterdcardno

Kiefer's terminology

I guess people are free to make up whatever terms they want. The current term in European agriculture for ammonia, nitrate etc is reactive nitrogen. Liquid ammonia injection is an application method. The term nitrogen fixation describes both the process of manufacturing reactive nitrogen and the natural method operating in cyanobacteria, via Rhizobia spp in legumes and other bacteria in other plant families

Aug 23, 2013 at 12:21 AM | Unregistered Commenterfilbert cobb

I do not know whether others have commented on this, but when these people get revolving jobs of this nature, redundancy pay should be fully clawed back (many high end managers in public service are laid off, compensated and within months re-employed often in the public sector) and public sector pension entitlement should be decreased (on the basis that the new employment and earnings will enable the person to make their own private pension arrangements). The cklaw back could be over a 5 or 10 year period so as not to discourage someone taking up new employment.

Aug 23, 2013 at 9:09 AM | Unregistered Commenterrichard verney

There is an authoritative 2012 report from the German Academy of Sciences on Biofuels. This is the one to read for in-depth analysis.

exec summary :
full report:

Overall the conclusions are pretty damning.

"Germany should not focus on Bioenergy to reduce the consumption of fossil fuels and GHG emissions. This is the conclusion by the authors of this report after balancing all the arguments for and against the use of biomass as an energy source. Particularly, it should insist that the eu 2020 target of 10 per cent renewable content in road fuel energy is revisited."

Aug 23, 2013 at 10:00 AM | Unregistered CommenterClive Best

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