I managed to read everything worth reading on my feedreader tonight, so I had a bit of a trawl through 18 Doughty Street.
I found this really good interview with Peter Oborne from a few days ago. Very interesting on the symbiosis of the political parties and the media and the corruption this engenders.
Alex Singleton of the Globalisation Institute is a sensible chap and resides very much on the side of the angels. Unfortunately in his article at the Graun today he gets it spectacularly wrong.
His thesis for the day is that green taxes won't work, and so we should introduce compulsory carbon offsetting.
We should scrap green taxes on flying and replace them with compulsory carbon offsetting. Like a tax, offsetting would add to the price of a journey. The difference would be that the money would go to actually improve the environment.
And he's quite definite about the kind of offsetting schemes he want to see.
It is certainly true that some carbon offsetting schemes are dubious. One involves discouraging the use of labour-saving diesel water pumps in developing countries and getting people to use back-breaking pedal-pumps, which were banned in British prisons a century ago. We should not allow some ill-conceived options to put us off more worthwhile schemes, such as planting trees.
Which is where he has got it wrong.
Anthropogenic global warming is alleged to be happening because carbon, which was formerly locked away in the form of oil, coal and gas, has been released into the atmosphere. Growing trees is going to have little or no effect on the situation, because trees have a finite life cycle and when they die they just release carbon back into the atmosphere.
As Britain's great chronicler of trees and woodland, Oliver Rackham, has said of carbon offsetting:
Telling people to plant more trees is like telling them to drink more water to keep down rising sea levels.
Interesting point picked up while researching the last post.
Chris Huhne, who wants to put the environment at the centre of government policy, has five children and seven houses (five of which he lets out).
What is it about greens and procreation? And is the greenery a guilty reaction to the overindulgence? Or is there something in the nut cutlets?
Liberal England is pondering the positions of the "Lib"Dem candidates on the subject of education. It appears that here at least there are some differences in their outlook, with Huhne speaking out against them:
But we should not fool ourselves that either insurance or vouchers will improve the quality or the fairness of public services. They will certainly do nothing, unlike local democratic control, for community responsibility and cohesion.
So if I understand it correctly, in Mr Huhne's opinions, the answer to the shambles of the education system is to make local bureaucrats answer to local politicians. It's funny, but I can't actually think of a single instance of this arrangement, in any area of public life, actually working. You have to wonder if he's on the same planet as the rest of us.
Meanwhile, Clegg is mildly in favour of education vouchers, but is not persuaded that ignorant proles should be allowed to use them outside state schools. So his position appears to be that shuffling children around between different state schools is the answer to all our problems. State monopolies are fine so long as you can get a crappy education at whichever school you like.
It's amazing that these men, who aspire to lead the party of Mill, seem to be blind to the possibility that liberalisation might actually solve some of the problems. I mean, if the LibDems aren't going to suggest liberal policies, what is the point of them?
Jonathan signs off thusly:
So it seems that both leadership candidates are going to disappoint me.
It's a commonplace of blogospheric discourse that government isn't made up of the sharpest minds under the firmament. In fact there appears to be abundant evidence that the powers that be are actually the intellectual and moral dregs of society.
Here's just a tiny bit more confirmation.
The previous socialist administration in Edinburgh took a pot-shot at the private school system by means of instituting a review of the rules for the granting of charitable status. The idea was, presumably, to force up school fees sufficiently that only the very rich, and MSPs, would be able to afford them.
However it is also a commonplace of blogospheric discourse that whenever the government does something they forget to consider something pretty important, and this is no exception.
The current socialist adminstration in Edinburgh (that's different to the previous socialist administration you understand) have found that they have been left a welcome present by the last lot. The legislation targeted at private schools seems to have caught HE colleges in its crossfire.
All charities, including Scotland's colleges, are required to demonstrated to the Office of the Scottish Charity Regulator (OSCR) that they meet the new charity test, set out the in the 2005 Charities and Trustee Investment (Scotland) Act. In a pilot, on John Wheatley College, OSCR ruled that the college did not meet the charity test because its constitution permits Scottish Ministers to direct or otherwise control its activities. This ruling means none of Scotland's colleges would currently pass the charity test and is why ministers are reviewing the situation.
They're not bright and they're not clever.
Average private school tuition ($6,600) was about 1/3 less than the spending per pupil in public ($9,620) in 2003-2004 (the most recent year available), and average Catholic school tuition ($4,254) was less than half of public school spending per student.
It's been reported that the spend per pupil in UK state schools has rapidly been approaching levels in private schools. In fact, the government have often stated their desire to equalise the remaining imbalance. I've said in response that I believe that the only reason that private schools appear more expensive per pupil is because of all the fees they charge for fripperies like stabling for Matilda's pony and rifle range fees for Cuthbert.
This report from the US confirms that if only tuition is taken into account, private schools are cheaper.
Are there any arguments left for state education?
Welcome to the latest edition of climate cuttings in which I round up recent developments in the wacky world of climate science.
The sun appears to have entered a period of low activity. This has created much interest among sceptics as it may lead to a period of falling global temperatures.
There has been a certain amount of anecdotal evidence in support of this theory, with early snows in the Alps and unusual migratory patterns among birds, apparently all organised by big oil. An abundant acorn harvest in the US is also said to indicate a harsh winter ahead.
An iceberg was alleged to have been seen off the coast of South Africa.
Last year, hurricane forecasters predicted a bumper season powered by the horrors of global warming. They were disappointed. In 2007 they tried again, and once more Gaia has failed to go off in a huff. The 2007 is set to be one of the least active seasons for years.
The stripbark pine story continues apace. To recap, the reconstructions of past climate involve using tree ring widths as a proxy for temperature. Most of the alleged increase in twentieth century temperatures in these reconstructions has been traced to stripbark pines - trees where a strip of bark has been removed. These are thought to be unreliable because of a possible CO2 fertilisation effect - ie increased ring widths are due to carbon dioxide rather than temperature. Now, blogger Steve McIntyre has discovered huge discrepancies in the ring widths within the same tree. Essentially the tree compensates for bark stripping by putting on growth on the opposite side of the tree - a confounding effect which seems to have gone unnoticed. It appears though that climate researchers have gone out of their way to use these most unreliable of trees though. We wonder why.
Biofuels are in the news. The Adam Smith Institute Blog notes that it takes 1700 kgs of water to produce a gallon of biodiesel. The UN calls biofuels a crime against humanity. Politicians continue promoting them anyway.
Roe and Baker, writing in Nature, say that climate is inherently unpredictable.
More evidence has appeared supporting a non-anthropogenic basis for recent climate change. The Earth has become more reflective ("higher albedo") in recent years suggesting that the recent falls in temperature measured by satellites may be due to cloud cover. The interesting thing about this effect is that it is much stronger than that of greenhouse gases, again suggesting that man's impact on climate is small.
And lastly, Tim Worstall noted an important fact about recent economic history. The world's economy appears to be following the IPCC's A1 scenario in which everyone is much richer than now, rather than the A2 scenario which assumes lower growth. This latter was the scenario chosen for the Stern report, which can now be consigned to the dustbin of history.
Which is probably where it belonged in the first place.
The UN has announced that biofuels are a crime against humanity. I might also add that they're a crime against rational economic thought too.
Meanwhile, the European Union has issued a directive that biofuels should occupy more than 5% of the market in member countries. And our lords and masters in the Labour party are developing a strategy to increase their use in the UK.
Business as usual then.
The Telegraph reports that flocks of siskins have been arriving in the UK, a sign which is apparently taken to portend a cold winter ahead. The arrival of the pink-footed geese was also apparently earlier than usual.
They are global warming DENIERS, I tell you! DENIERS!! The tentacles of big oil get everywhere, EVERYWHERE...
So Gordon has pulled the plug on a plan to allow councils to run pay-as-you-go rubbish collecting schemes.
I've got mixed feelings about it really. Yes, the councils would have gone price-rise crazy. It would have been unpopular with voters.
But why on earth does a local council have to ask central government how it should deal with rubbish collection anyway?
Here's a delightful story (via Rob Fisher, a blog I haven't visited for ages for reasons which entirely escape me).
German greens have persuaded the government there to institute a state-funded deposit scheme for plastic bottles. Trade in your plastic bottle and you get 25 eurocents from the state. Because the bureaucrats have ignored the economics the consequences have been, frankly, completely predictable.
Three hardworking thieves [...] bought 150,000 ersatz grape soda bottles, made for a few cents each in Lithuania, to the eastern German state of Schleswig-Holstein and started trying to cash in.
So here we have, ladies and gentlemen, greenery in action. Bottles are made to order in Lithuania, shipped across the border to Germany and are then melted down to make new bottles.
Lunatics, I tell you, lunatics.
William Connelly observes, correctly, that in effectively destroying the coal industry, Margaret Thatcher
is responsible for any faint hopes that the UK has of meeting its Kyoto targets.
This is yet another example of how good economics can drive good environmentalism. I wonder if any of my greener readers would care to call for the environmental beatification of the Blessed Margaret. Joe? Repeat after me: "Maggie is a saint".
There seems to be a lot going on at the moment doesn't there? So much to read and so little time to actually say ones hap'eth (sp?) worth .
Croydonian informs us that the liberals have won the Polish elections hands down. That's real liberalism you know, not the socialist-lite LibDem kind.
The Englishman links to an incredibly disturbing report that the Italy is going to require bloggers to get a licence.
Everybody is laughing at the Independent reprinting a government press release as original journalism. Pity the poor deluded fools who read it.