389 - Summer Snippets 22 | Scoins.net | DJS

389 - Summer Snippets 22

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Summer snippets runs from August onwards. I have formed a subsection each time any single topic passed a two-screen measure (on my own set-up). No doubt some pieces ought to be uploaded separately, but I cannot as yet decide the basis for this.


The End is Nigh

Well, no it isn't quite, but we may be beginning to recognise the significance of the need to change. I noticed a  number of more extreme articles on climate change, prognostications of dire consequences, the beginnings of estimates of just how much we're going to miss the 1.5ºC target.

Just as an experiment, here's a list (rant, ramble) of what I think we should be reading about, which I'l then rewrite as I find how wrong I am.

Methane is worse than carbon dioxide as a greenhouse gas. How much, I don't know offhand; 10x? 80x?. We generate a lot of methane from cows and, presumably other ruminants. The UK herd is around ten million (√) so this argues for a reduction in dairy and beef. Essay written already about milk sustainability (and a slow move to oat is occurring in our household). But since that essay I've learned that we haven't changed the area of land under cultivation for a generation or more, and that the volume/tonnage of food has been pretty constant for a similar length of time. Question, then, over whether Brexit should be a cause or excuse to change that position. Where is methane stored currently? Peat bog perhaps? That 9% of UK land that's bog? In Europe, would that include a lot of land that has been under ice in somewhere like Greenland? So since increasing temperature implies a lot less ice, does that have consequences for methane production that are indirect actions by us?

Still thinking of Greenland (Essay #49, written way back in 2010, but also #358), I've written before about that melting ice screwing up the Gulf Stream (look up AMOC). Loss of that, which moves a load of heat from the tropics to northern Europe, would change UK weather hugely and suggests to me very cold winters, since we're north of Korea and Japan (known for cold winters).

If that weight of ice disappears, does that suggest that we'd get more vulcanism? I have no idea.

As the planet warms, so an awful lot of people are going to want to move to better climate. While they'll bring with them some appropriate skills, that need to move also strongly suggests a significant loss of usable arable land and in turn that implies we're going to have even more demands on land to produce enough food. So, at a time when even Britain might see a need to increase land under crops, there is, at the same time, a need for more land as housing. If the non-jungle tropics are largely emptied, southern Europe is going to be overwhelmed. This suggests to me that more wars are likely – and war is already known to be not exactly good for crops. So a shortage of food is expected and famine across large swathes of land is likely.  The four horsemen of the apocalypse are stalking the land.¹ 

this topic continues lower down th page and may need to be moved to a separate page.

1  The four horsemen of the apocalypse were Death, Famine, War and Pestilence. Wrong: Death, Famine, War and Conquest; pale, black, red and white respectively. Revelations says the order is conquest, war, famine and death and I find it odd that conquest comes before war. Then I learn that Conquest is also Pestilence. Suitable for a lengthy foot note. Ref to Ezekiel and Zechariah, whose list—of four predicted disasters—was sword, famine, wild beasts and pestilence (also translated as plague). I found a version of the Revelations set as: capture or the threat of conquest; slaughter or violence people do to each other; economic hardship and insecurity; and death.

I found several pointers to articles that say the fifth horseman would be us. Pick a colour for the horse, then, or make it some other sort of horse, such as zebra, donkey ass - or mule. Should the Donald be on the horse?

2  George Monbiot, Guardian writer.




MCB; micro-consumerist bollocks; obsessing, or being persuaded to, over plastic straws, bags and coffee cups rather than the huge structural forces driving us towards catastrophe. (source). George, in the same article, suggests we should aim for private sufficiency, public luxury”, by which latter term he means high quality infrastructure, shared spaces and facilities.


I have continued to look at Covid, Essay 391. We remain at about 1 in 25 with covid but it is higher in Scotland and Northern Ireland, up to about 1 in 17. More than 10,000 of the 75,000 (English) hospital patients have covid, most of whom are in there because of covid, rather than having caught it because they were in hospital. But that continues to make work within the NHS hazardous and will do nothing good for staff morale, employment and retention.

Thus we are headed generally downhill. We may succeed in dodging recession (defined as two successive quarters of negative growth) but not inflation, currently at around 10%. We have serious confusion what it is that is essential and, with a government that is in apparent paralysis, no good ideas what we do about anything. Top of the list of 'something must be done' is the cost of living crisis; CoLiC, perhaps. It is established that we have a significant proportion of the population who are sufficiently poor to not pay tax and that these, but not these alone, are the people for whom an increase in fuel bills is a disaster. I hear enough economists agreeing (itself a worrying event) that the way to do this is by some sort of direct subsidy payment to a household (not a family, which is different) and that this needs to be carefully directed so that the already well-off (better-off than those at the poverty line) and at the margins of poverty are suitably assisted, or not. Of course, that does nothing to improve the housing, nothing to reduce the demand for fossil fuel-based heating and nothing towards attending to the room-based elephant, climate change. 

We need so many of our structures rethought extensively. One such is the water utilities. We (our government) went mad in the 70s for privatisation, thinking that private investment was the cure-all for a government's responsibility to its people. The mantra was that market competition solved everything. But a water board is inherently a monopoly, so selling this off might be seen as idiocy. However, we are in this odd position (no-one else in Europe does this) where the water boards are owned by businesses, who are, in theory at least, attracting investment so as to apply this to water extraction, supply and maintenance. Of course, they 'must' provide a return to those investors and the question I hear posed (increasingly often in a heat wave) is whether those profits are at all reasonable (and in turn, those dividends, the executive bonuses and so on). I also hear persistent criticism of the regulatory supervision; thus I expect that Parliament will (eventually, years too late) beef up its published requirements of the regulator, provide restrictions on profits and in effect demand that much more capital is sunk into the water system. I have every expectation that there will be an immediate and persistent counter-argument about investors and protection of their position that causes water bills to rise dramatically with remarkably little effect upon those business profits (and dividends, bonuses etc). What is missing from our media, as ever, is new input; what one hears is frequent regurgitation and repetition with remarkably little actual factual content (opinion vs perception with factual truth a poor third). For example, system losses are significant but better than ten years ago; no-one has a target of 'acceptable' and we have no idea of the scale of those losses in comparison to what it is that we as consumers might do (or could have done) to mitigate the demand. To a large extent, this is herd behaviour; we have far too few even trying to ask a better question.

[11]  https://www.water.org.uk/news-item/water-companies-record-lowest-leakage-levels-from-pipes/  says leakage is down by 7% (216 Mlitres) to 2954 Mlitres. The alleged target is half of this loss by 2050. I don't see why the target is not for 2030. This linked site says water companies have pledged to triple the rate of leakage reduction by 2030 enabling action to be taken faster.  That could be understood as a good thing (more action promised) or a bad thing (action should already have occurred).

[12] https://grantham.sheffield.ac.uk/how-much-water-does-the-uk-use/

Water consumption is, apparently 142 litres per person per day. During lockdown this increased to 175, but no-one is admitting whether that was an increase in water or a redistribution of demand. At home, the average UK person uses 142 litres of water per day and a house of 4 uses around 349 litres per day.  Taking hidden water costs into account it’s estimated a person in the UK uses 3000 litres of water a day. Some say that this is actually 4650-5000 litres for meat diets and around 2000 litres for vegetarian diets.

I know that our 2-person household uses 60-65 cubic metres per year, around 85 litres per person per day (85±3).


From an email from the Conversation, 20220825:  

When it comes to dealing with today’s soaraway inflation, the experts tend to fall into two camps. One camp thinks the coming recession will largely snuff it out, so a few modest increases in interest rates is enough. Many of these people also think the inflation is primarily due to supply problems caused by China’s zero-COVID policy and the Russian energy crunch, so they doubt that choking off demand by raising interest rates will help much anyway.

The other camp thinks inflation is much more entrenched, and blame all the money printing and ultra-low interest rates that were supposedly the answer to the 2008 financial crisis. Among them is Jeff Frank, a Professor of Economics at Royal Holloway University of London. He says we’ll need much higher interest rates to solve the problem – potentially in the double-digit percents. If so, it’s going to be ugly. For example, a mere five-point increase on mortgage rates will jack up homeowners’ average mortgage repayments by over £6,000 a year.


After a long and drawn-out affair, we have a new Prime Minister. The Prime Minister is the leader of the party in power, which is determined by the result of a general election. 

The Conservative elected MPs vote in successive rounds until there are just two candidates left and then the choice between these is put to the party membership. When Theresa May was chosen there was no grassroots membership ballot because Andrea Leadsom (2nd) withdrew. Prior to 1965 a leader merely 'emerged' from discussions within the party. Closed doors, then. [20]

The Labour party system, [21], was last updated in 2015 and is open to party members and affiliated trade union supporters, who have a single vote per person. The alternative vote system then removes the last place person and allocates that vote to the next available choice, until there is someone with 50% of the vote.

The Liberals have an online vote; hustings were online too, last time. Liberals have a leadership election within a year of a general election (unless elected, which hasn't happened for a century). All party members vote, using the Alternative Vote (single transferable vote) system. 

The Greens elect their leadership every second year. They use the single transferable vote, too. All members vote, but that might well change if they had many elected MPs.

I think that the alternative vote and the single transferable vote are not the same. I think the first has a limited number of options, while the second continues to keep 'your' vote in play until it is one of the two final piles. The fundamental attraction here is that voting of this sort always means that a majority of those that voted have voted for the eventual winner. It is also true that one could put a limted number of alternatives; if there were five candiates to number 1-5, one could choose to enter only 1 and 2, so that the vote cast would stop at choice 2 and either succeed or be discarded. This allows quite a good approximation to 'none of the above', which I think a more useful way to vote than to simply not vote at all. I see a significant difference between apathy (I don't care) and antipathy (They're all useless).

[20] https://researchbriefings.files.parliament.uk/documents/SN01366/SN01366.pdf

[21] https://www.instituteforgovernment.org.uk/explainers/labour-party-leadership-contests

[22] https://www.instituteforgovernment.org.uk/explainers/liberal-democrat-leadership-contests

[23] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2021_Green_Party_of_England_and_Wales_leadership_election


We lost the Queen on 20220908. One suspects she died mid-afternoon and that the public announcement, around 1830, is a reflection of deliberate media delay. It seems to me that 'around her bedside', as the media love to write, were Charles and Anne, but not the longer list present at Balmoral by five.

The 15 prime ministers she knew while in post were:

Churchill, Eden, MacMillan, Douglas-Hulme, Wilson (twice), Heath, Callaghan, Thatcher, Major, Blair, Brown, Cameron, May, Johnson, and Truss. Before Churchill and heading into the past were Attlee, Chamberlain, Baldwin, Ramsay MacDonald (1st Labour), Bonar Law, Lloyd George (last Liberal), Asquith, Campbell-Bannerman and Balfour.

It appears that Charles will stick with being Charles.[√] I read already a degree of confusion about what has to be replaced; I've long been used to having old coinage in use, so why would we have to replace old notes? We do not, we only need to change the new notes. Whether there is immediacy in that need is unclear. Similarly, new stamps but not old ones, surely. We do not need to generate expense we cannot afford. Should, for example, the new king decide that he wants to show Wales in his flag that will have expensive consequences for letterheads across the civil service, so perhaps that would be best connected with the coronation, not the Accession that occurred yesterday evening. I think Accession has occurred and Succession begins at coronation. Current usage says differently, that succession is understood to be the line of succession. I remember that there were two lists of dates that those older than me were expected to have learned, one being how long the crown was held and the other when accession had occurred. Unless someone dies before coronation, this seems a bit of a nonsense.

The royals shift around in titles and line of succession William, his children; Harry, his children, Andrew, his children; Edward, his children; Anne, her children, their children. This is (currently) 23 positions.

Titles: I find these very confusing. William and family have been known as the Cambridges but it is assumed that William becomes Prince of Wales and Duke of Cornwall.[√] Charles my also pass Duke of Edinburgh on, possibly to his youngest brother Edward (whose initials, I remember, spell EARL and he is one, too). I discover that we have 24 to 29 dukes and dukedoms, depending how you count them. Of these, the immediate royals, that top two dozen in succession constitute the titles of Cornwall (William), Cambridge (George, son of William), York (Andrew), Sussex (Archie, son of Harry, or Harry himself) and Wessex (Edward, but that's Earl, not Duke). Anne, Princess Royal, should have one and should have had one for decades, in my opinion. Sorting out the proper titles and positions of Harry and of Anne—and the females throughout—is something Charles may clarify in the time to come. The Duke of Kent, Prince Edward, is a cousin of Queen Elizabeth, so "1st cousin once removed" relative to Charles, as is Prince Michael of Kent, Prince Richard of Gloucester and Princess Alexandra. The youngest of these four is 78. Camilla will be Queen Consort, which I find entirely appropriate and proper; written as if my opinion has any value at all. Albert was Prince Consort to Victoria.


What are the topics on the list for the PM to address? I thought to perhaps review these topics in the future:

Climate Change            Cost of Living Crisis                     Wealth Taxes, bonuses    Immigration         Housing

Levelling Up                  Energy bills, utility shortfall           Inflation, recession          NHS funding        Councils

Ukraine   ...and thence...     Defence funding                           Brexit / N.Ireland              Strikes                 Education

Several of these point to a wish list for copious spending (and many times) and no recognised way to produce funds. Our borrowing exceeds annual GDP so this can be done but is expensive; the places we'd borrow from see us as weak. The Tories seem to be very reluctant to go for a wealth tax and for an excess profits windfall tax; thus they damage their image by apparently supporting business so that the relatively poor pay up. While help with energy bills will be very welcome, we need to address the lack of insulation in homes so as to reduce demand. We need to move more towards energy security (Bristol Channel barrage, please); SNRs are five to twenty years off supply to grid and we clearly should be using gas to fill in the temporary shortfalls when the renewables cannot provide. Fracking will be resurrected but will produce no quicker than the SNRs with, I suspect, a greater guarantee of damage.

Some of these overlap significantly and that illustrates that these are not stand-alone topics. The not-managing, the barely managing and the jams, the just-about managing, all need significant support, but given in ways that encourage small but significant changes. We need the bottom end of the pay scale paid better; this is demonstrably so in care (nursing in general, mental health support, care in the community, care homes, council support teams and so on at length) but also in hospitality, which might well be allowed to die back if working from home is encouraged. At the very same time, rampant inflation and the portion of this which is energy costs might well drive employees back to the warm office and thus reverse what I see as a very healthy piece of progress. If the energy support is sufficient, WfH will continue (to rise, I hope, but not fall) with consequential possibilities of people improving their housing to accommodate, so to speak, the greater time onsite. Levelling up, about which I have written often to little effect, has to reduce the advantages of the rich and I see this as contrary to Conservative 'values', real or perceived. The need for levelling-up is clear and the evidence stark; what is immediately wrong is that so many perceive this as money for nothing. It seems to me that central government could do a lot by changing the way in which council funding is handed out, by increasing in proportion to the lack of progress (and decreasing wherever possible, but that's an unacceptable idea). 

Similarly it is past time that education ceased to be a political football; we are declaring a third of the population to have failed (at 16, GCSE level) and we should be viewing that as the UK having a system that is at fault, that the system is failing to provide education. To fix that we may well need to review what it is that we need to occur, what the minimum 'education' is – quite obviously something different to what we have been doing, as far as the 'failed' are concerned. I think we need something like what the secondary modern schools were intended to be and I think we need to embrace learning that has little to do with school as we have been delivering it. Perhaps we make changes post-16, but we must move to a position where the non-academic find reward, self-regard and responsibility. It may be that a significant plank of such a plan encourages (rather than allows) people to revisit whatever 'education' becomes at a later age. That is a topic I've visited several times now but I am increasingly convinced that those for whom school is clearly not helping, who in effect are rejecting school, must have places to go where whatever they will relate to can be usefully supplied.

I'd have liked to add these topics:

•  Trust, integrity, probity, referring to behaviour of politicians and government so that we might improve the attitude to our national institutions. I want politicians to tell it like it is; I want boring but intelligent leadership; I want to be persuaded to agree with an idea and to work towards its success. I have had none of this since returning to Britain. The cronyism extant in parliament is appalling. It is far from clear how one (or many or any) can call these people to account, given the success of BoJo in denying anything and being allowed to do so. Populism has to be changed into public responsibility.

•  Health, meaning persuading us to look after ourselves and have the NHS as a fall-back, not a crutch too many of us use full-time. Having a failing health service as we do, this is already occurring, but subtraction of care is not the same as encouraging people into better behaviour.

•  Responsibility (for actions). While politicians must exhibit probity, honesty and transparency, I think there must be corresponding moves by the public at large. I'd like this to include being able to challenge poor behaviour in public and having that criticism be acceptable. That would move us towards being a self-regulating society and not quite such a nanny state.

•  Devolution for England. I continue to think this would go a long way towards fixing the Scottish (and Welsh and Irish) problem. I think it would permit parliament to behave better and it would move local politics within a proportional vote so that we all felt that we had some say in who our representatives are. The current system causes the reverse effect, but it has the advantage of flipping with a relatively small change in national opinion. I think having that sensitivity to small changes valuable at the top political level and a lot less so at the relatively local level.

•  Working at having fewer humans. Here I not only want to include a supply of copious advice on how expensive and difficult it is to be a parent (and as a choice not an inevitability), but also encouraging religions to work in the same direction; encouraging migrants to agree with this as national policy; adjusting the support for parents so that children are wanted and valued but in an environment where we all understand there are going to be fewer. Under the same heading I place embracing a change in our approach to never-ending growth so that it includes having steadily fewer people, all working far more effectively. I think that measure needs adjustment and one way to do that would be to place value on unpaid work (or to cause it to become paid, which would be much the same thing). Such as being able to apply for significant money for giving support (to the ill and the aged but not to children), for maintaining a household. Maybe the 'money' is some other paper with value. What is wrong here is the way we measure 'growth'; GDP is part of the problem. Kennedy had something to say about this a long time ago. https://theconversation.com/beyond-gdp-changing-how-we-measure-progress-is-key-to-tackling-a-world-in-crisis-three-leading-experts-186488

• Sorting out tax for global online businesses. Here I'd really like to include this under wealth tax and bonuses. While we have far too many barely coping we also have too many with massive earnings. I'd like to see a cap on earnings (ideally world-wide), just as I'd like to see a cap of gross profits. I have no issue with these being spent on, say, research, but I do have issue with bonuses bigger that the national median wage, just as I do with salaries bigger than four times that figure. We need models that make those who have in the past been rewarded hugely still feel rewarded but in significant other ways. A wealth tax would return some of these funds to the economy but we need also ways of encouraging the very successful into providing advantage to many, not only themselves. We need those inventive minds working on making life better for us all and we need incentives to make that worth their while. Money is not the answer.


One of my (three) American friends wrote to ask how we were faring in the fall out from the Ukraine war? Reports in the US are that things in England are somewhat dire in the face of energy price issues and general inflation. This was my response, edited only for my typos:

Fair question. We have multiple simultaneous issues. Thanks to the eventual ejection of Boris who, like Donald, thinks he’ll be back, we’ve had no government since late July and none now that the Queen has gone. Brexit is a permanent bane and brake upon the economy. The Tories (Conservatives, in power) have a standing policy of small government and low taxation and this is inappropriate in a post-pandemic time and while energy prices are rocketing. So very little is happening that makes any sense at all.

Among the several idiocies—and ones that could be fixed very quickly—is that electricity prices are geared to gas prices, though no-one understands why. In a country that makes something like 45% of its electricity from renewables (wind and solar far more than hydro) but generates the other power from more gas than nuclear, when gas goes up by five, electricity goes up by three. Except it really shouldn’t. So the energy companies are making vast profits (unevenly) and a windfall or excessive profits tax would be sensible. What we’re going to do, we’re told is simply stupid and our bills will be ‘capped’ (they are already), which means that someone whose job is to make sure prices are reasonable and stable gets to decide how big our bills are. We’re on the low end, even though we live in a big house; our annual energy bill is about £1300 and will jump to around £3000. But we can afford that sort of extra, having surplus income every year. The 40-60% of people who don’t have such funds will need to rethink their spending (while screaming all the while that something must be done to preserve their way of life, however self-centred). I predict that money spent on communication (Phones, streaming, paid tv, roaming, data access) and entertainment (football, eating out but most of all pub alcohol) will drop so as to pay bills. The really disadvantaged have cruel choices between eating and heating and are not the same people who spend their lives chasing the football coach and drowning their sorrows in beer.

Our national debt is bigger than our GDP. We’re not the only ones in that position but we are the only one with a weak currency (Brexit again).

Which doesn’t directly answer the Ukraine issue. Among what’s not being paid for is the export of munitions and equipment to Ukraine. The big effect on us is the energy shortage, but it should be clearly understood that Germany is hit harder, being very much more dependent on gas from Russia. However, Germany has very much better insulated buildings and UK housing stock is appallingly badly insulated. The differences across Europe are historic, but I say a lot of Britain’s failure to have good housing is simply habit. We have high ownership (declining, but still high); we have expensive property but we do not accord value to property that is cheap to run. I’d like to say that this attitude is changing, but I think I am twenty years ahead of the norm. We have a house energy rating, an Energy Performance Certificate, EPC, which is a required selling document. Grade A is very good and G is awful. Most UK housing is D/E. My houses have usually sold at the upper edge of C, while I buy usually at D. ('Mine', because C does not contribute financially). [Energy price caps apply to domestic bills, not business] Progress is stifled by bad planning rules and many restrictions on design changes; we live in a ‘conservation area’ which means that we cannot change the external face of the house as seen from the street (and permission to change is made too difficult). This house is 1900-1930 and has some fantastic internal finishes (very fancy plasterwork on walls and ceilings), so I can’t insulate externally or internally. All we can do is run the house cold, which we have already been doing. We replaced the roof with 2019 standard insulation (wonderful positive effect) but one cannot fill the cavity wall at the coast (salt, and the rain goes straight through). One looks at a heat exchanger (which becomes worth running instead of gas central heating once electricity is less than three times the price of gas, but that doesn’t fund the change; equivalent pricing per kWh would) BUT they run at low temperatures, so the radiating surface needs to be floor sized and, even if I was to leave the walls as they are, we’re looking at £100/sq m across the house when we’re already well ahead of the mean across the country. 

Which is to say that the Ukraine issue hits us in the pockets, due to gas.

We are also hit by grain prices. Ukraine and Russia export something like 30-40% of the world output (which is bandied about but refers to export, not grown for internal consumption). So we grow quite a bit but export very little; you grow it and export it. The losers here are largely the poor countries of Africa. But a leap in gas price has rocketed the cost of fertiliser, itself having other problems because of a fire in one of the largest producers a year ago; this has a remarkable effect upon farming costs, which in turn hits prices. Brits have an uneasy relationship with food pricing; we demand high quality but low prices and I say this is a doomed attitude. But then many of us do not eat well and are not exactly healthy. So we can add the consequences of the pandemic and chronic underfunding of the NHS to our woes.

The perceived leap in the cost of living and unfamiliarity with inflation (well understood by those who lived through the 70s here) causes civil unrest. The speed of media and the general inability to think (we only react, emote and tweet, we appear to refuse to do thinking) means that there’s way too much noise and too little sense. Of course the economy will contract.

But we could treat this quite differently, as opportunity. Energy prices are going up and they won’t come down much if there is an afterwards. So this is serious incentive to get off fossil fuels and at the very same time to reduce energy demand. We learned in the pandemic to work form home and to travel a lot less (really, a lot less); we could turn that into the new norm. We could at the same time change our attitude to necessary travel (deliveries) and price that accordingly. We could do a lot (more) about moving to renewables. We could move industry to low energy policies; just today there’s a significant report out showing how the chemical industry could change itself and gain enormously while doing so, but production of steel and concrete (and bricks, I think) are going down the tubes, since they are energy intensive. 

We need change in so many respects. Our education fails to produce people who are equipped for adulthood, parents are not parenting; the demand for incessant growth makes no allowance for the need to reduce the population; we make only cosmetic efforts to improve productivity; we place no value on unpaid work; we demand that the nation repair our health but we do bugger all to improve our personal health (“It’s my gene)s!” - excuses, excuses; we need to balance the rich vs the poor, which here we call ‘levelling-up’, but what is really at risk is that those with Advantage have to lose it, which is the well-off, the comfortable and those down South - we could fix a lot of that with devolution for England (think of small states of around 8 million, the same as the population of Scotland).

So, is war in Ukraine affecting the UK? Difficult to tell; we have so many equally big problems that it is easy to blame externals for what are, realistically, issues of our own making. Politically, the idiots may still be in charge but we don’t know. Liz Truss is a proven idiot of a different strain to Boris but, given that she points whichever way the wind blows, she might accidentally move to some sensible ideas. Nothing that’s happened since Cameron persuades me that anything sensible is likely. Yet if the other lot were in power, the media (definitely Tory-leaning) would ensure that their time would be too short to effect worthwhile change. We need instead to have politicians who tell it like it is, who are boringly truthful and, hence, trustworthy. The Boris (and Trump) effect of populism is that we’ve learned (and Brexit is a prime example) that decisions ‘should’ be emotional, that thinking is anathema (and therefore somehow Wrong). Among the consequences is that everything is incredibly short-term and we’re more like a shoal of fish than a herd approaching panic. This means that doing anything about climate change is always the can being kicked down the road.

Which also means that your individual approach looks steadily to be the only policy worthy of consideration. The world is going to pot, so what can I do to improve my own individual position. That makes zero progress towards a more inclusive consensual society with a sensible, considered approach to policy. Meanwhile, down at grass-root level things are beginning to stir…

All the best,


While I remain not a fan of blogroll, the place where people put comments at the end of an article, I notice that I am steadily being joined by more generally read organs. I found, without trying particularly, several organs that have reduced or removed their comment space. One reason is that this is so easily attacked; another is that it uses resource to manage it (keep it clean) and it is a surprise how few sets of comments can be curated by one staff member. There is an argument that says that the security issue is neatly dodged by encouraging the response to be on Twitter, Facebook, Reddit and the like, on the assumption that then this is someone else's security issue. There is a counter-argument that says that it is important that feedback occur, with which I agree but that does not at all mean that public comment attached to the entry is the best place for it; that would depend on the classes of comment. For example, if the comment expanded upon the content, fine. I often read the comment that occur with Grauniad articles. Too many illustrate a lack of precision in reading, deciding that the article was about something that gets their goat when it was about something different enough to matter. Too many entries (column inches of the reading space) are filled with comments on the comments, people trying to be funny, people responding to others higher up the stream (and out of place). It is cacophony. There are a few curated sites where the comments are few, of sufficient length to be worth reading and written well enough (because post-editing is permitted) to actually make a worthwhile point. But, in order for that to occur, the curation must be severe. That rather implies that the response that point to factual error or to misreadings have been dealt with, though possibly only deleted. It seems to me that if several separated readers misread a sentence then the sentence would best be rewritten so as to be properly understood – humour excepted, perhaps, though I see enough occasions where satire is completely misunderstood. This suggests to me that one way forwards is to allow comments to collect but not be instantly published. Of course this would work against the perception that all demand must be instantly fulfilled, but I have noted before that this runs counter to one of the threads towards greater happiness, that instant gratification leads to more dissatisfaction, not less.

The Conversation has decided to reduce the number of articles for which comments are permitted and to keep the comment gate open for 72 hours. The Guardian does much the same.

Moving comment to the social media platforms also moves the custom. Bothering to curate the comment on the article site involves the customer and so provides some significant change over the passive reading of paper. What I think makes the biggest difference (but I'm guilty of already wanting this) is when aliases are not permitted; if your comment has your (genuine) name attached you are far more careful in what you post. This is less so if you have an alias and very much less if you have several aliases. But what makes the most difference is the level of moderation: it appears that what happens then is that the commentary has sufficient content (often from a surprisingly small group often responding) that others find this worth reading. So in a sense the 'paper' has free input that generates more users and therefore more income. Magic; in effect the curation becomes self-funding.

Then there is trolling. Quite how one determines that this is occurring has more attention given to it, but we might describe this as offensive behaviour and therefore to be stopped. There is a point at which curation is prevention of free speech, perhaps but that is solved by the ownership position. You post a comment on my site and it is still my site, so whether or not I allow you post to stand (the act of curation) is in my gift. The position must be different on social media but there are still to be rules and standards about permissible content. If the poster can be (uniquely, accurately) identified then further posts can be prevented by a blacklist equivalent. Repeating my point, if we had genuine signatures we could fix this very quickly. I can see a case for being allowed one alias, a form of nom de plume, but I do not see a case for multiple aliases and anything which encourages trolling needs to be avoided. As for those who develop into trolls, I wonder if they are exhibiting mental health issues that should be dealt with. So I can envisage having to make an application for me to have, say 'OldFitGit' as an alias, so I might post and still hold down a career that I express opinions about. But that very application means that if I offend I can be found by suitable authorities, that I can be banned from certain sites/organs (which wouldn't have to be a permanent blacklisting) and that, perhaps, offences could be looked up while not revealing exactly who I am and where I live. Of course, any system can be gamed; it might well be that a carefully curated site become a place where views of a certain pattern (agreeing with the curator or with a position the curator has been persuaded to encourage) are followed and dissent with that position discouraged. Such positions would include 'anything that raises our readership', or increases whatever metrics we're using for success, probably attributable income.

We must be allowed to disagree; that is what free speech is all about. We need to be very much more clear how we go about indicating disagreement and to do this in ways which all parties can find acceptance. In practice, this is seeking consensus; while we're all shouting, we're not listening; when the shouting turns toward violence, this is escalation and wrong. What we need is for difference to be explored and so consensus to be revealed. I have always believed we can agree to disagree, but that doesn't have to make us enemies. If you surround yourself with people who agree with you then the echo-chamber effect we've had observed and pointed out on social media means that we drive ourselves steadily towards extreme positions. Instead what we need are systems and environments that drive us more readily towards consensus.

20141121 https://edition.cnn.com/2014/11/21/tech/web/online-comment-sections/index.html

20180624  https://www.kqed.org/lowdown/29720/no-comment-why-a-growing-number-of-news-sites-are-dumping-their-comment-sections    In one analysis of site activity,  just .06 percent of all the visitors to NPR.org in a single month actually submitted comments at all. And more than half of all comments submitted came from just a tiny group of shockingly prolific contributors who, it estimated, disproportionately tended to be middle-aged men. 

20200821 https://whatsnewinpublishing.com/publishers-that-closed-their-comments-sections-made-a-colossal-mistake/  Did comments sections invite trollish behaviour? Yes. Did moderating that behaviour require both editorial and technical resources? Also yes. But deploying these resources was worth the cost, as it would have resulted in publishers maintaining a stronger relationship with their readerships. Instead, much of the news media became commoditised, with news outlets placing more emphasis on drive-by Facebook traffic than serving loyal readers. In pursuing this strategy, publishers placed more distance between themselves and their users, and so they were ill-equipped when digital advertising models collapsed and platforms like Facebook siphoned off their traffic.  Don’t believe me? Just look at the publishers that didn’t abandon their comments sections.

20200916 https://theconversation.com/new-research-shows-trolls-dont-just-enjoy-hurting-others-they-also-feel-good-about-themselves-145931

Poe's Law: On the internet, someone will always take satire at face value.

(Troll) Law: On the internet, someone will view any contrary viewpoint as trolling.



Aside from the level of emotion running against this process, there are other arguments against doing any fracking in Britain.

1. It would take a long time to produce gas. 

2. It is unlikely that production would be profitable; fracking in Britain is not economically viable. the UK is a very expensive place to operate. Governments have singled out the energy sector for regulations that impede operations that are standard in agriculture and other industries. The upshot is that an operation that in the US, Canada and even Argentina is a rapid piece of keyhole surgery is in the UK a ponderous, slow-moving and costly operation. [22]

3. The geology is wrong for shale extraction. In Lancashire, we learned in 2011 that the shale formations are extremely gassy. They are also heavily faulted and compartmentalised, unlike the generally continuous gas-bearing formations underlying large parts of Pennsylvania, Texas and Alberta. Learning how to recover this gas will take time – and indeed may create low-level, short-lived ground tremors, an issue that in Britain has been blown dramatically out of proportion. The construction and rail industries would not be able to exist under the standards that have been applied to onshore gas recovery. [22] This from the founder of Cuadrilla, the much vilified company attempting fracking between Preston and Blackpool. In his considered opinion we will never get beyond exploratory work, which, it could be argued, we have already completed enough to show that fracking will not be viable here,

4. The number of wells to be drilled is large. When this is realised, the social reaction will be strongly against fracking. As [21] put it, frackers would not be given the “social licence” to operate. From [23]: ... issue is the enormous scale of operations that would be required to replace even 10% of UK natural gas: thousands of wells would need to be completed over the next 30 to 50 years, with the drilling and fracking of hundreds of wells a year. This would mean dozens of rigs and fracking crews in continuous mobilisation across the country. At Cuadrilla, we learned first-hand how much this kind of industrial activity is resented in Britain. Many of these crews would be from America. Britain does not manufacture much of the relevant equipment – most of that would be European and North American.

5. Gas prices are set at the world market, so any home production has virtually no effect on energy pricing. Existing investments in LNG infrastructure – commissioned before the war began – mean that Europe will have plentiful gas availability (much from “fracked” wells in other countries) with a return to pricing normality in two to three years.[22]

6. Obviously, more gas is more fossil fuel; we're supposed to be cutting back, aren't we?

[21]   https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2022/sep/08/fracking-uk-not-fix-fuel-bills-economically-high-risk

[22]  https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2022/sep/21/fracking-wont-work-uk-founder-chris-cornelius-cuadrilla

[23]   https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2022/sep/21/liz-truss-fracking-britain-economic-political-low-carbon-cuadrilla

[24] https://www.greenmatch.co.uk/blog/2014/08/is-the-uk-harnessing-its-geothermal-energy-resources

Sources [22, 23] goes further, nominating two projects that would, they think be more promisingly cost effective:

One: Geothermal heat The vast amount of warm, non-potable brine underneath large parts of the country – an energy source we have been evaluating for potential future ventures. From Northern Ireland to the Wessex basin to the East Midlands, these saline brines sit in permeable sandstone formations at temperatures of 60-80C. “Doublet” wells would allow temporary extraction of this warm water to heat greenhouses or other industry, which would then be returned back to the formation.This is a resource that is easily tapped. All that is needed is the political courage to seed exploration and alter water extraction and planning regulations to also encompass heat. Britain, now a significant importer of perishable vegetables, could become a significant exporter, while drastically reducing the carbon footprint of the country’s horticultural sector. (One of us is involved in a company seeking a licence to produce such energy.) That would be Triassic Power; I found no related website, only existence. The big idea here is that we make a heat pump work by pumping water/brine into the ground and then extracting the heat from that, so if we jump to places where brine is already in the ground, we've saved a load of costs.

See [24] for comment on the topic w.r.t. UK. We have had a working site in Southampton since 1986; Newcastle has an ongoing project, using an existing deep borehole; Cornwall has ongoing projects at Redruth and Eden

In general, a geothermal power plant is a heat pump and requires access to a warm or hot source underground. Generally, the deeper, the hotter, though more heat can be gained if a fault is exploited (Redruth). The project can be made far more viable if it starts from a deep hole already existing. [Oh, how about the fracking site down the road?] Generally these tend to be relatively small projects but it is fairly obvious that we could mature the technology and bring costs down. One should distinguish between near-surface (up to 400m down) and deep geothermal. We can do shallow stuff in our gardens, which would work very well at 2-2.5m deep [and isn't geothermal at all, it is ground source heat pump and doesn't usually need planning permission; we can drill 80-100m for a vertical cycle, which ought to give a bigger temperature difference, but you need more space, oddly.  I'm not happy that the expected life of a system is 20-25 years; for the expense and disruption I'd hope for something matching the life of the building. The average geothermal gradient is 25ºC/km [Quora]. 

We could also look at waste heat as a power source and generally the articles on this aim at industrial waste. Search for thermoelectric generators. If you're stealing heat from the flue of your wood stove, that will reduce the chimney effect, so I'd think that there's an amount of waiting for things to get hot enough to have the excess heat. Which is a way of saying that wood stoves are inefficient; I am far from convinced that they are eco-virtuous.

I think it is obvious that extracting heat from the ground has limitations; the heat is coming from somewhere and so there is a limit as the rate of energy extraction. See, P7.

Two: Tidal barrage. Britain’s tidal range, second highest in the world. The moon pulls billions of tonnes of water up and into our western estuaries, which could then be harnessed for energy generation. Britain could have a meaningful tidal lagoon industry if we wanted to. We just need the political will to not weaken developers and exhaust their resources over sensationalised but manageable issues like estuary fish stocks, and the higher cost of an initial pathfinder lagoon.

There is one in Europe, at Rance,  in FRance, pictured.

Britain has few excuses for failing to make this happen. Proposals, even planning permission, for various schemes have been made but the politicos don't have the guts to make this happen. Look up the story on Swansea Bay, which was intended to be a pilot scheme, a path-finder project; the gov't refused to guarantee the energy price so the thing folded and the result is that no new projects have any financial support. The green lobby practically guarantees that no change will be tolerated. I may be green, but I disagree about change. We need tidal barrage on a large scale; powering a million homes sounds about the right scale to me. Do not confuse tidal stream with tidal range: the tidal stream is small-scale, the tidal range is large-scale and you might see it described as tidal lagoon. 

[25] https://www.energymonitor.ai/tech/renewables/the-mystery-of-the-uks-untapped-tidal-power You really ought to read this.

[26] "tidal stream energy has the potential to provide 20% of the UK's demand" note the 'potential'.

[27]  https://hendryreview.wordpress.com/ presents the argument for the pathfinder project (Swansea Bay was already in progress, but that was expected to be the pathfinder project). The overall point is that the life of such a project is at least as long as a nuclear plant, perhaps twice that (based on La Rance) with the cost at about 60% of nuclear (and ignoring nuclear clean-up issues). A pathfinder project would be rated at less than 500MW.

https://hendryreview.files.wordpress.com/2016/08/summary-of-recommendations.pdf Shows that development  in the Severn estuary (by far the preferred target area) should demonstrate that commercial interests would be somehow protected, that silting up (deposition) is accounted for, reduced or prevented (dealt with in the design, planning and execution).

It helps to know that in France, La Rance produces at 18 euros per unit while nuclear produces at 25. La Rance, 1966, is past 65 years of operation. It outputs 500GWh per year, a mere 0.12% of France's demand. It took 20 years for the plant to pay for itself. Wikipedia (I just contributed today).

You may want to read up on load capacity and capacity factor. This, in brief is the % generated of the nominal capacity (sustained full load). So my solar panels are rated at something alarming like 6.4kWh but expected to produce 3183kWh per year. It actually has produced, since October 2019, 10630kWh in three complete years, 3543KWh/yr. So the capacity factor is perhaps 55%, which is very much better than expected. On the other hand, only once (today) have we received any payment for what we've exported to the grid, a paltry £70 for the last year, when the meter says we've exported fully half of what we've generated. [I read this by logging on to the supplier site, https://m.ginlong.com/ - it's Chinese!] The message is that we should make every effort to use what is generated.





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