UK Government Sabotages Green Investment

This week, with almost no comment in the British press, an industry was killed off. This wasn’t just any industry, but one that has recently created 17,000 jobs, and is tipped to be one of the world’s fastest-growing: Solar Photovoltaic (PV) power generation.

In April 2010, the UK belatedly adopted the idea of FITs (Feed-In Tariffs), a form of subsidy that was already widespread in Germany and other countries. FITs are a cost-effective subsidy that guarantee a fixed amount for energy generated from renewable sources. The introduction of FITs allowed entrepreneurs to create business plans for the creation of Solar PV businesses; they then approached green energy investors to raise the capital required to build solar farms (typically in Cornwall and elsewhere in South-West England). Initial investments were injected by angel investors – typically individuals investing relatively small amounts of their own cash.

Yet suddenly, the UK Government has announced a review of FITs for Solar PV. The effect on the industry has been instant; investment in Solar PV has been frozen, companies have laid off staff, and investments made to date are rendered potentially worthless. Land already allocated for solar farms now sits idle. Not only solar is affected: the result of the announcement is to create uncertainty for all green energy investment: why take the risk of following the Solar industry into the same hole?

The action is moronic at many levels:

  • There is no risk for government in FITs – all risk is taken by private entrepreneurs and investors.
  • Germany and China have already stolen a march in the green energy sector. This may be the UK’s last chance to lead in a sector that’s growing at a huge rate.
  • Without investment in green energy now, we expose ourselves to ever higher oil prices, and make ourselves more reliant on Russia as a gas provider.
  • The loss of 17,000 private-sector jobs comes at the worst possible time, when unemployment is already rising due to government cuts.

Whether the review announcement was simply done through incompetence, or whether the power of the fossil fuel industry was involved remains to be seen. Regardless, I name government ministers Chris Huhne and Greg Barker as Morons Of The Week.

British readers may want to write to Huhne or their own MPs using this open letter.

Lord Monckton Runs Away

Twitter can be a cruel place, as “climate expert” and laughing stock Lord Monckton found out yesterday to his cost. Monckton is a British climate change denier, and makes a very good living from it. He is largely ignored in his own country, but it seems America and Australia provide more fertile ground for his brand of “science”, and no doubt his posh accent and title give him added credibility in those places.

Monckton is very important to climate change denialists – they seem to think that he adds credibility to their cause. And he is widely celebrated in the right-wing blogosphere.

Yesterday (31st January) I was alerted to the fact that Monckton had arrived on Twitter. He’d clearly been ill-advised – unlike the rightwing press and blogosphere, Twitter is a place that can bite back. No doubt Monckton was expecting an adoring welcome from his fans – and no doubt he got one. But this would have been at least matched by those who are less friendly to his “cause”.

You see, the great Lord is renowned to be a twister of facts. Furthermore, he makes an extremely good living by being the mouthpiece for climate change denial; a living he protects fiercely. For example, he is reported to have earned $20,000 (Australian) for a recent Australian tour.

Which is good work if there are people dumb enough to pay for it. But more serious, from a factual point of view, are questions about whether money from the fossil fuel industry finds its way into Monckton’s wallet. DeSmogBlog.com reports that Monckton is listed by the “free-market” think-tank The Heartland Institute as a “Global Warming Expert”. The article points out that this organisation has received over $791,000 from ExxonMobil, and that sponsors of its 2009 “Climate Change Conference” had received over $47 million from oil and right-wing interests, making it anything but an impartial scientific body.

Now, Lord Monckton is renowned for silencing his critics by issuing libel writs, so let me make clear at this stage that I have no idea whether the allegations I’ve linked to above are true or false. So you can imagine my delight when I was informed that I could now question him publicly on Twitter, and find out for myself.

I began by warmly welcoming him aboard: It’s nice to see oil-funded climate “expert” @LordMonckton on Twitter. Welcome! More info here: http://bit.ly/ifbS2B – providing a link to a DeSmogBlog.com article about him.

To my great delight, he swiftly responded to me, stating: I am not, nor ever have been, funded by the fossil fuel industry. At last! A chance for Monckton to set the record straight. I realised that he was denying direct funding, so I wondered about indirect funding. I asked Have you ever worked for a body that is oil-funded?

The next reply was somewhat puzzling. Rather than a straight “No”, he said: I have never “worked” (by which I assume u mean f/t employment) for an #oil funded body

This is an interesting definition of the word “worked”. In other words, he could work weekends and evenings, or even four days a week, for an oil-funded body. But so long as he isn’t working full-time for them, he considers that not worth mentioning. My question had clearly not been precise enough, and I decided to clarify: Wow – that was an evasive response. Have you ever done any work for an oil-funded body?

Amazingly, this great researcher, debater and spreader-of-truth didn’t answer! I was stunned. Could Lord Monckton be trying to hide something? Of course, some of his supporters did come to his aid:

@gopthinking said: @LordMonckton Don’t reply to that fool called @Moronwatch, he is a worthless communist!! Not worthy of ur time I assure you!!). Which gave me a warm feeling in my heart – I’m known and loved throughout the Twitterverse! But enough about me – back to Monckton.

He tweeted publicly: I grow more concerned by events in Egpt (sic) so I decided to restart the conversation, and said: You could always deny it’s happening. Works for global warming. This approach didn’t start the productive conversation I’d hoped for.

Next, at 00:32(GMT) @ionstp tweeted: hey @LordMonckton has blocked his tweets! What’s with that? Now we can’t laugh at them or him. Bummer!

I was amazed: this fighter for truth, this great and noble Lord who defends the persecuted and maligned fossil fuel business against accusations that it’s destroying the world, has shunned open debate!

And finally at 08:23(GMT) @NemesisRepublic tweeted: Oh! @LordMonckton seems to have vanished from Twitter! Should I now treasure for posterity the Tweets we exchanged?

And that was it: in a virtual puff of smoke, Monckton had vanished just as quickly as he’d arrived. No doubt, I was one of many who tried to engage in open discussion, and failed. But I’d like to think that I played some small part in the story of what must be one of the shortest-lived Twitter accounts ever.

Arab Uprising Exposes Right-Wing Hypocrisy About Democracy

Remember 2003? How the West (well, the US and Britain) marched in to Iraq to depose the dictator Saddam Hussein and bring “democracy”? Obviously the democracy part hasn’t really bedded in yet, but overall, aren’t we Westerners nice? We spent over $1 trillion of our own hard-earned money to liberate those poor, oppressed Iraqis.

Cynics pointed out that the American/British love of “spreading freedom and democracy” (to use Bush-speak) was a little inconsistent: what about all the other Arab dictatorships? How about the central Asian dictators like Islam Karimov, America’s “friend” in Turkmenistan, who had a thing for boiling his opponents alive? And what about the fact that America has backed so many nasty dictators in the past, in Latin America and elsewhere? Perhaps most of all, what about the American/British love-in with the brutish, fundamentalist regime in Saudi Arabia (and its huge oil reserves)?

But let’s not be too cynical – didn’t America cheer (and lend a quiet hand) as the Berlin Wall fell, and then revolution after revolution swept Eastern Europe? Yes, it did. Didn’t rightwing media and politicians join the left to support the Iranian uprising after the rigged elections of 2009? Again yes.

And now here comes something just as world-changing, and probably even more genuinely spontaneous than those Eastern European uprisings: in the space of a few days first Tunisia, then Egypt, and now Yemen too, rose up against the dictators who have terrorised their populations for so long. The Arab world, so long criticised for its lack of democracy, freedom and human rights, appears to finally be finding its voice.

Of course, those rightwing commentators who cheered Bush and Blair into Iraq, who cheered the pro-democracy uprisings in Ukraine, Iran and elsewhere, are positively delighted with this turn of events. Of course!

Not.

The problem is that, while the fall of Russian or Iranian influence helps European and American interests, those Arab torturers are… well how can I say this… (it’s a little embarrassing) – defending US, European and Israeli interests in the region. So the chance of democracy in Arab countries isn’t exactly what the West wants right now… or (to be honest) ever.

So if you’re puzzled by the lack of excitement on Fox News, or your favourite “pro-freedom” media outlet, well: you have the right to be. The problems are twofold:

  1. Oil – there’s a LOT of it, especially in Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and the UAE. Currently all this oil is controlled by moron dictators, who in turn owe their allegiance to the US.
  2. Israel relies on corrupt Arab dictators, with the help of bribes (did I say bribes? I meant aid) from the US, to prevent the Arab people lending support to the Palestinians.

What this means is that the US state and right-wing news sources are kind-of reluctant to cheer on the pro-democracy movement that’s gathering pace. of course, they don’t SAY that. What they say, or at least hint at, is that these uprisings contain… brace yourself… ISLAM! And we know (or at least indoctrinated right-wing morons know) that Islam is bad, m’kay? So the very people who scream Freedom and Democracy at every opportunity are now decidedly reluctant to support the Freedom and Democracy sweeping the very part of the world where it’s most sorely needed.

Here are some examples of how it plays out:

Far-right botox’d Muslim-hating moron Pamela Geller writes a blog post entitled Fall of secular regime in Tunisia paves way for Islamic revolution. Note how a torturing, murdering dictatorship becomes a “secular regime” and a call for democracy becomes an Islamic revolution. She says “Tunisian President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali was warning American officials about the dangers posed by radical Islam”. Well yeah… so the suckers send him weaponry and aid to fight the “Islamist threat” rather than try to topple him.

In a truly hilarious fence-sitting attempt to kind-of look like they support democracy, rightwing rag The National Review says in an editorial Mubarak Should Go – But Not Yet. Strange that it’s the right who accused the left of “appeasement” for opposing the toppling of Saddam, now calling for a blood-stained dictator to stay in his place.

Here at MoronWatch we wish the revolt every success. But have no doubt that US advisers are already in Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Israel looking for ways to deflate the rage that’s now exploding through the Arab world.

Oil And Morons

Oil: wherever you find it, you’ll find morons. And wherever there are morons, there are people talking crap about oil.

The History Of Oil In One Short Paragraph

In the Middle East, so much oil was lying on the surface that people have been using it in small quantities for centuries. And when in England the industrial revolution was born, coal became popular, and shipping converted from wind to coal. But some bright spark realised that oil was a more useful shipping fuel, and when WW1 broke out in 1914, the British converted the naval fleet to oil; the only problem being that there were no known oil supplies in Britain. So the jolly old Brits occupied (what are now) Iraq, Iran and other Middle Eastern places in order to secure an oil supply. Later, as the British Empire collapsed, the US Empire moved in to replace it. The world’s biggest oil producer, Saudi Arabia, was denied democracy and put into the hands of limb-chopping Western-friendly morons. And so in 2001, 19 Arabs (of whom 16 were Saudi) flew planes into tall buildings in America… which was used an an excuse to re-invade Iraq, and while the Americans occupied Baghdad, the British occupied Basra which (not coincidentally) they had first done back in 1914. Which brings us more or less to the present day.

Addiction?

It turns out the winner in this game may actually be the loser. Easy availability and low fuel taxes have encouraged Americans to behave as if oil is forever cheap and plentiful. With 5% of the global population, the US consumes about 24% of the oil supply (about 20.6 million barrels per day, of a global total of 85 million). In contrast, European countries have taxed fuel more heavily, with the result that Europeans are far more fuel-efficient. An American uses more than double the oil a German does, and almost 12 times a Chinese person. Of course, that would be fine for Americans if oil supplies were plentiful and cheap forever…

And now here comes a perfect storm. Several things are happening simultaneously that will cause a series of increasing shocks to the oil-dependent economies unless there is intelligent, decisive action to reduce oil addiction.

  1. Oil is becoming harder and more expensive to extract. The easy supplies are already used up.
  2. The Asian, Latin American and African economies are growing much faster than the developed world, and so is their demand for oil.
  3. It may be that oil producers can no longer extract oil fast enough to reach rising demand – this idea is known as Peak Oil. While 1 and 2 above would cause a gradual rise in prices, this one could cause huge, rapid leaps in price. The only question mark is about when this happens.

It’s not as if any of this is secret. Jimmy Carter understood the addiction problem in the 1970s. Obama, in his book The Audacity Of Hope, said:

It is hard to overstate the degree to which our addiction to oil undermines our future. Without any change to energy policy, US demand for oil will jump 40% in 20 years. Over the same period, worldwide demand will jump 30%.

A large portion of the $800 million we spend on foreign oil every day goes to some of the world’s most volatile regimes. And there are the environmental consequences. Just about every scientist outside the White House believes climate change is real.

We cannot drill our way out of the problem. Instead of subsidizing the oil industry, we should end every single tax break the industry currently receives and demand that 1% of the revenues from oil companies with over $1 billion in quarterly profits go toward financing alternative energy research and infrastructure.

Of course, this is easier to write when you’re not President. The oil industry wields real power in the Land Of The Free – probably more than the President does.

Morons In Denial

The oil industry, sensing a threat, denies that peak oil is near. An admission would prompt a rush to invest in green energy, which would limit future oil profits. (Similarly, admission of man-made climate change would lead to a collapse in oil profits which is why it invests so much money in denialist propaganda). From the twisted world view of big oil, a few decades of profits prior to global economic collapse are worth it.

America’s moron politicians, many funded by big oil, repeat the lie. And most Americans, tricked into leaving urban areas for the open spaces of exurbia in previous decades, are addicted to their cars, many facing ruin if the cost of fuel rises substantially. Together, big oil, many politicians and most consumers continue to wish the problem away.

Every small bump in the oil price prompts an eruption of tweets from morons, trying to apportion blame. They blame Obama, China, terrorism. They need to know that the problem is a temporary one and can be fixed. What they can’t accept is that oil prices will rise, and rise and rise, never reaching a stable peak but accelerating, until the world finally invests in sustainable alternatives to oil. Osama bin Laden is recorded as saying that a $200/barrel oil price would wreck America’s economy – his strategy is to provoke US wars, causing instability, costing America money and pushing up oil prices. America under the neo-cons seems to have gone along with this plan.

The oil industry, of course, says that the solution is to drill more. Moron politicians, led by Sarah “Drill, Baby, Drill” Palin take up the cry. And morons, desperate for a solution that doesn’t involve them reducing their fuel usage, scream at Obama to do so. More drilling can only postpone finding a solution, leading to an even greater crash when domestic oil fails to meet demand.

Moronic “just keep burning oil” messages can be seen on blogs such as Fausty’s. In one amusing post, he trumpets a “fall” in the oil price, posting a graph that shows the price of Brent Crude dropping from $97.6 to $97.2 (that’s a fall?!). Morons like this attribute every rise to “speculation” and every fall to “common sense”. Judging from the continual rise, there must be a lot more speculation than common sense… see this chart for the long-term trend.

And Now?

America needs a huge plan of re-urbanisation (cities are far more fuel-efficient places than suburbs and exurbs). But that would require political consensus, which would require that moron politicians (primarily but not exclusively Republicans) stop taking oil money and turn their back on the oil industry’s lies. It would also hurt the war industry, who would much rather spend $1 trillion on a war for Iran’s oil than spend $1 trillion on becoming the world leader in renewable energy. Will America make the change in time? Maybe, but not without removing corporate power from government. Perhaps it’s already too late for America to avoid an oil-price-induced depression. In that case, all the rest of the world can do is try to insulate themselves from America’s coming oil crash.

9/11 Tweetathon

9/11 is one of the most significant events to affect America in the past few decades; and yet so few Americans seem to understand why it happened, or know anything about the events leading up to it. On September 11 last year, I posted one tweet per hour throughout the day on the subjects of 9/11, terrorism, the so-called “war on terror”, and world events in the preceding decades that played a part in building up global anger towards America.

I’d like to thank @dbudlov, a twitter user who has collated my 24 tweets into one block, and regularly reposted them to Twitter; here’s the whole set of tweets, with extra notes added in italics.

1) In memory of the almost-3,000 innocents, killed in New York by morons 9 years ago

2) 16 of the 19 hijackers were Saudis. None were Afghan or Iraqi
(It’s amazing that Bush/Rumsfeld ignored this point, and most commentators still do. The attackers weren’t a mix of “Muslims” or “Arabs” – they were almost all Saudis, as is Osama bin Laden).
3) Most of the hijackers were Saudis. In 2001, the US had 10,000 troops in Saudi Arabia (fighting which war?)
(Let’s ask again: more than a decade after the end of the Cold War, what legitimate reason did America have for a military occupation of Saudi Arabia? Wouldn’t Saudis be a little… well, pissed off, to be under foreign occupation?)

4) Al Qaeda originated in Saudi Arabia, the world’s #1 oil producer, friend of America, and creator of fundamentalist Wahhabi Islam
(So… blame Afghanistan, right?)

5) On Sep 11 1973, the elected Chilean govt was overthrown by the army with help from the CIA. Around 3,000 people were later killed
(Coincidentally, America took part in an illegal attack against a democratic government on September 11, 28 years earlier. You couldn’t make this stuff up…)

6) The Taliban were never involved in the 9/11 attacks, although this was never made clear by the Bush admin.
(By blurring different groups with distinct ideas and aims, the neo-cons created the illusion of a powerful enemy, intent on attacking America. Mixing up Al Qaeda, a Saudi terror group, with the Taliban, a fundamentalist Afghan group, was part of this propaganda exercise.)

7) Iran’s last elected govt. was overthrown in 1953 by a UK/US-backed coup. Which kinda explains why Iranians don’t trust America
(Iran has never attacked another state in modern history. On the other hand, America has been repeatedly involved in destabilising Iran, and creating propaganda about Iran being a “threat”. Iran also has the 4th biggest oil reserves; these facts are probably related.)

8 ) The only chemical weapons used in the Iraq war were deployed by US forces in the city of Fallujah http://bit.ly/cC3Dsb
(Ironic huh? Given that “Saddam’s WMDs” were the reason given for attacking Iraq… click the link above to read about the aftermath of using chemical weapons in a city of 300,000 people.)

9) Around half of Americans wrongly believed Saddam was involved in 9/11. The Iraq war claimed at least 97,000 civilian lives
(If you’re going to support a war, shouldn’t you understand why the war is happening first?)

10) Like Iraq, the Vietnam War was started by a lie. An estimated 4m civilians died
(You’d assume the US would have learned something from Vietnam, wouldn’t you?)

11) In the 1980s, Reagan backed terrorist groups throughout Central America, resulting in around 200,000 civilian deaths
(3,000 deaths in New York bad. 200,000 deaths in Central America best-not-to-mention.)

12) In 1988, US missiles took down Iran Air Flight 655, killing 290 civilians inc. 66 children http://bit.ly/cx5DQw
(Terrorism is bad, m’kay? Except where it’s our terrorism.)

13) 1976: terrorist Orlando Bosch and 3 others with CIA support blew up Cubana Flight 455, killing 73 civilians. He lives in Miami
(Terrorists are assholes m’kay? Except for our terrorists.)

14) 1979 Iranian revolution removed The Shah, America’s torturer, from power. US still seeking an excuse for revenge
(How dare a Middle Eastern country refuse to be ruled from Washington?)

15) The terrorist IRA killed over 3,000 civilians in Britain and Ireland from the 70s to the 90s, with money from American supporters
(NORAID raised money for the Provisional IRA in the US, while the IRA were blowing up civilians in Britain and Ireland. Apparently some terrorism is worse than others.)

16) Both Saddam and bin Laden were American agents who went astray – pick your friends more wisely?
(The US helped bring the Ba’ath Party to power in Iraq via a 1963 coup, and later encouraged and supported Saddam Hussein in his illegal war against Iran. When Saddam gassed Kurdish civilians in 1988, the US response was muted and support for Saddam continued until Iraq invaded Kuwait in 1990. The Arab and Afghan mujahideen that became Al Qaeda and the Taliban was supported and trained by the US, partly in Pakistani “madrassas” during the 1980s. The results of US cold war policy in the region are clear today.)

17) Occupations always create terrorists. The US has over 1,000 military bases on foreign soil
(…in over 150 countries. People don’t like foreign troops on their soil – no doubt Americans would also object if it happened to them.)


18) Half a million Iraqi children died under US-led sanctions in the 90s, usually through shortages of medicine
(A total of around a million Iraqis died under the sanctions regime. In hindsight, this was done to weaken Iraq enough to attack it with minimal military resistance. This helps explain why Iraqis were less enthusiastic about the US invasion than expected.)


19) 1,271 Afghan civilians were killed in 1st 6 months of 2010 alone
(3,000 deaths in New York changed the world. Thousands of deaths elsewhere can be ignored.)

20) It’s not about Afghanistan, Iraq, Somalia or Yemen. The terrorist problems emanate from Saudi Arabia and Israel
(The neo-cons turned America’s post-9/11 fear and loathing against convenient targets, avoiding the 2 sources of most anger and discontent in the region. The Saudi regime is among the world’s most tyrannical, but sits on massive oil reserves. Democracy in Saudi Arabia is a pre-requisite for Middle Eastern peace, and also a threat to US oil interests. Israel is America’s most reliable regional ally, and hence gets away with murder – literally.)

21) The “Saudi royal family” was a creation of the British Empire and later adopted by the US. Oil beats democracy
(As the British Empire collapsed, it appointed puppets to continue maintaining British interests. With the rise of the US Empire, these switched from being UK clients to US clients. If Saudi Arabia had no oil, America would call for democracy there, as it does for Syria and Yemen.)

22) The top Middle Eastern oil reserves and US control: 1) Saudi (check) 2) Iran (in progress) 3) Iraq (check) 4) Kuwait (check)
(The list of oil reserves by country reads like a checklist of America’s foreign policy priorities.)
23) In 2001 Rumsfeld said Al Qaeda had 100,000 followers. In reality, less than 1,000. The lie of the decade?
(The end of the cold war by 1990 threatened the power of the US military, intelligence community and arms industry. A new enemy had to found, whether real or fabricated. 9/11 gave the pretext: a small terrorist group took advantage of lax airline security to carry out a massive terrorist attack. Rumsfeld’s big lie laid the basis for the “global war on terror”. Acceptance that Al Qaeda numbered no more than a few hundred activists would have precluded a military response. The Al Qaeda brand was largely created by the US response to 9/11 – had YOU heard of it beforehand?)

24) The war machine sucks up tax dollars that could create the world’s best health and education systems. Just Say NO
(The “cold war”, the “war on drugs” and the “war on terror” were all chosen as pretexts to allow an endless American war. In 1942, hundreds of thousands of US troops were deployed to fight Japan and Germany, but the end of WW2 was a strategic turning point. Rather than bring the troops home, they were kept overseas, and remain to this day: 369,000 US troops are based in over 150 countries, maintaining the biggest empire the world has seen. While the empire drains America’s pockets, it creates trillions of dollars of wealth for America’s richest; the Global American War can be viewed as a massive redistribution of American wealth, from poor to rich. It can happen because Americans allow themselves to be frightened by a never-ending list of new enemies. As European empires collapsed, Europe was able to invest in health, education, transport and housing while America fell behind. Now it’s America’s turn.)