Fuel Price Morons

Every day now, my timeline is filled with howls of rage from both sides of the Atlantic about the high cost of gas/petrol. There are some local differences: US screams tend to be louder, reflecting their greater exposure to crude oil prices, and they tend to blame Obama for the global price rises, believing (incorrectly) that more drilling at home will fix the problem (search for the #DrillHereDrillNow Twitter hashtag to see some real-time stupidity). British morons are generally more aware of the global nature of oil pricing, so instead they turn their rage on government-imposed fuel duties. Both sides miss the key points: that rising global oil prices are outside the control of any individual or nation; that more US-based drilling will at best slow down the rise while wrecking the environment; that addiction to oil won’t be cured by further addiction; and that Europe has actually avoided the worst of oil addiction by imposing high fuel duty (although our price-per-gallon is much higher, our overall spend on fuel isn’t because we use less).

I used to love driving; I loved my car, and drove it as stupidly as a typical 19 year old wannabe racing driver could do. Then, I found a great job – the only downside being that I had a minimum 80 miles per day commute (much more if I had meetings outside the office). The cost wasn’t an issue for me; my employment package included a company car and fully-expensed fuel; but my minimum of 2.5 hours a day in the car soon started eating away at my enjoyment of driving. Despite the fact that most of my commute was on motorways with a speed limit of 70mph, my average speed was around 25mph, and lower if there had been a serious accident.

Day after day, I sat on the M25 (London’s massive ring road, often referred to as “The World’s Biggest Car Park” and subject of the Chris Rea song, Road To Hell), and pondered the wisdom of Britain’s long-term shift from rail to road. I was surrounded by thousands of other people, mostly sitting alone in their own metal boxes, all facing in the same direction, all burning fuel in their own personal engines, and moving very, very slowly.

It slowly became obvious to me that this wasn’t sustainable, either for me personally or for the country. However many lanes were added to the M25, the traffic never sped up significantly – more cars simply arrived to fill the new space. Car ownership and mileage were growing constantly. People were abandoning urban life for the suburban dream. It was clearly impossible to fit cars into a human-sized town or city; the space has to expand to cater for all the cars, whether moving or parked. Car addicts were being offered American-style shopping malls in the middle of nowhere, and town centres were beginning to wither and die as commercial places. And this was long before I first heard about Peak Oil – the (in hindsight) obvious idea that if we keep using more fuel, one day we won’t be able to get it out of the ground quickly enough to serve demand.

My long hours spent behind the wheel took their toll, and I developed back problems and asthma. I grew to hate the car, and became jealous of people who didn’t have to drive to work. Changing to a job where I had to buy my own car made the problem worse. Eventually I moved to a London-based job, sold my car, bought a new bicycle and moved home close to good public transport. On a conservative estimate, I saved £5,000 ($8,000 at today’s rate) a year, my weight fell, my health improved and so did my quality of life.

After 9/11, Osama bin Laden was very clear about his strategy to undermine American power in the Middle East: provoke US revenge attacks, create instability and drive oil prices up to $200 a barrel, thus destroying America’s oil-addicted economy. The 2000 Bush election win had been an effective coup for the oil industry; in the 2003 invasion of Iraq, Bush and the neocons did what bin Laden had invited them to do, and the seeds were sown for a disastrous end-game of rising demand and unstable supply.

The oil industry is doing what it needs to do: convince us to keep using its product. It does so by lying about the risks of our continued addiction, by denying that peak oil is near, by overstating oil reserves, and by continually lobbying against any new energy source or form of transport that may threaten sales. In 2000, it even installed its own oil-friendly regime in the White House in order to preserve its revenues for another eight years. A Saudi oil minister, aware of the threat to his nation’s future if the world turned its back on oil, is quoted as saying: “The Stone Age didn’t end for lack of stone, and the oil age will end long before the world runs out of oil.”

Smart individuals can act in their own interests – primarily by abandoning car-based, suburban living. We need to appreciate that destroying more nature for a little more oil won’t change anything; and Europeans should understand that high fuel duty is what has saved us from an even worse disaster to come as oil prices keep rising. We’re driving ourselves fast towards a cliff. We need to stop moaning and start steering.

Nationally and internationally, change is much harder to execute; America in particular is so far down the route of de-urbanisation that it would take decades of concerted leadership to move society back to a high-density, low-energy style of living. And while the oil industry retains its political power, and pumps its anti-peak-oil, anti-climate-change propaganda via outlets like Fox News, this can’t even begin to happen.

Those morons who continue to ignore the obvious deserve their looming fate: suburbia and exurbia will become the new ghettos and ghost towns as their oil-based lifelines to civilisation shrivel away. They can tweet their hatred of Obama forever, but it’s the oil industry, its conservative friends, and our blind acceptance of their lies, that got us to this point.

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.

British Multiculturalism In Music

Yesterday, multi-millionaire posh-boy and British PM David Cameron spoke out on a subject that he clearly knows much about: multiculturalism. It doesn’t work, he says. Though silver-spoon from head to toe, apparently “Dave” also has his finger on the pulse of British culture beyond his fave Tapas bar in upmarket Notting Hill.

Unlike Dave, I wasn’t ‘lucky’ enough to be raised in a monocultural ghetto like Eton. Over 40 languages were spoken at my London state school, and white kids represented no more than 15% of the school population. London is probably the most mixed, diverse and racially harmonious city in the world. Immigrants make up a high percentage of the population, yet racist groups like the BNP and EDL find it impossible to establish a toe-hold within the city. The good people of London have been notoriously intolerant of intolerance, ever since they fought and beat the fascists of Oswald Mosley at the Battle of Cable Street in 1936.

But how do you measure culture? How do you decide if an idea like multiculturalism has worked? For me, one answer is given by music. Thanks to immigration, and the British tendency towards cultural mixing, Britain has become one of the most creative music producers in the world.

Below is a small selection of “multicultural” British music – illustrations of the cultural power created when multiple influences come together without segregation. Feel free to listen to one or two… or all… or just read my comments on each track.

Ghost Town – The Specials – 1981
The Specials, from Coventry, were the original “two-tone” band, blending white skinhead music with Jamaican reggae to create UK Ska, and bringing white and black kids to the same gigs for the first time. The creation of the two-tone movement coincided with the fall of far-right street racism.

Food For Thought – UB40 – 1980
This mixed reggae band from Birmingham are still going strong, though much of their best work was made 30+ years ago.



Smooth Operator – Sade – 1984

Sade (pronounced Sharday): 50% Nigerian, 50% English, 100% British Soul.



Back To Life – Soul II Soul – 1989

Though black artists were rising from the late-70s, their styles were borrowed from Jamaica and the US. London-based Soul II Soul are credited with creating a truly British black sound for the first time.

Chok There – Apache Indian – 1993

Real name Steven Kapur, a DJ of Indian origin from Birmingham; blending Indian music with Jamaican-influenced Ragga, a true creation of the British Empire!

21 Seconds – So Solid Crew – 2001

This collective from South London were part of the UK Garage movement: a uniquely London music style whose roots include UK dance music, Jamaican dancehall and Hip Hop.

Terrorist? – Lowkey – 2010

Lowkey is a London rapper of mixed English and Iraqi descent, known for his political lyrics against racism and war.

So Dave, if you want to understand race and culture in your home city, take a bus up the road and let me help you. If I want to know whether to drink Beaujolais with foie gras, I’ll be sure to drop you a line.

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.

It Must Be Moron Friday

WOW! Fridays are normally nice, quiet, getting ready for the weekend kinda days. But not today. Here’s a quick summary of global moron activity for this morning

  • Egypt in lockdown – most Internet and phone services are shut down in expectation of huge demonstrations after lunchtime prayers. Reports suggest that huge amounts of people have been rounded up, and that police shootings have occurred. Wikileaks provides a timely reminder of why Egyptians hate the dictator Hosni Mubarak so much.
  • Meanwhile, in the Land Of The Free(TM), Hillary Clinton refuses to support the uprising, instead asking the dictator Mubarak to “implement reforms”, and Joe Biden says that Mubarak isn’t a dictator. Is this the same USA that hates dictators, that loves Freedom And Democracy(TM)?
  • And now to gay-hating Africa: in Uganda, a prominent gay rights activist is beaten to death with a hammer, following anti-gay incitement by politicians and media. It should be also noted that today, UK authorities plan to deport a Ugandan lesbian, who faces harassment, and perhaps even execution under a proposed law.
  • And in the UK, semi-literate semi-comical far-right group, the English Defence League, fabricates a story about one of their leaders Kevin Carroll being shot at by “Jihadists”. This is intended to stir up anger among the EDL’s moronic followers in the run-up to a demonstration in Luton on 5th February. The police report only confirms that a man complained of something being thrown against his window.
  • Finally over to Israel, which has always complained that Hamas doesn’t accept its right to exist as a state (and therefore justifies endless war). A Wikileaks cable confirms what was widely known anyway: Hamas does accept Israel, within 1967 borders.

And that’s just Friday morning… GIMME A DAMN BREAK GUYS! Please?

Looking Ahead: Morons in 2011

At this time in a new year, you can expect political pundits, economists and “futurologists” to give their predictions for the next 12 months. As the world’s leading Moronologist (self-appointed), I’ve decided to share my predictions for the coming 12 months. Where will be the hotspots of moron activity? Who are the morons to watch? What will morons be doing and saying in 2011?

Prediction 1: Winter will be colder than summer

OK – that’s obvious. However, this simple fact takes morons by surprise every year, and provides their small minds with “evidence” that man-made global warming is a myth. Meanwhile, the oil, coal, gas, motor, road and aviation industries will continue to fund denialist organisations in order to keep millions of morons confused.

Morons to watch: in the absence of any actual scientists who deny climate change, the serial climate liar Christopher Monckton is likely to again be wheeled out by deniers. It doesn’t matter that he’s been repeatedly discredited; morons don’t check facts anyway.

Probability: 100%

Prediction 2: The Tea Party will become increasingly confused

Given the extreme levels of confusion already existing within these moronic groups, this is a braver prediction. The Tea Party is a loose-knit collection of assorted morons, who believe they are part of an “anti-elite” movement, but who in fact are funded and nurtured by some fairly “elite” types. As activists realise they’ve been primarily used as a tool to win lower taxes and looser regulation for the super rich and big business, many will drift away, disillusioned.

Morons to watch: this may be a make-or-break year for Sarah Palin, the Moron Queen of Morondom. Her chances of becoming 2012 presidential candidate seem to be slipping, and she’s likely to end 2011 by drifting further from politics towards lucrative celebrity deals.

Probability: 75%

Prediction 3: Islamaphobia to rise in Europe/Israel, peak in US/UK

This is a complex one; since 9/11, morons have been inciting even dumber morons to believe that Islam poses a threat to life, the universe and everything. Islamaphobia has helped fuel the growth of neo-fascist movements across Europe, that were already in recovery as collective memories of the Holocaust faded away. Xenophobia is at the core of European identity, though Europe plays well at being “tolerant” in between the odd genocide. Neo-fascists have been making electoral gains for some time in places like France, Italy, Belgium, the Netherlands and across the old Soviet bloc. Israel has also seen a long rise of neo-fascists being elected – something that has deeply disturbed Holocaust survivors.

Meanwhile in Britain, which has always been less fertile ground for fascism than most of Europe, the BNP (British National Party) appears to be heading for collapse amidst electoral failure and financial meltdown. The EDL (English Defence League), perhaps Britain’s dumbest organisation, has gained somewhat as a result, but I predict that they too will splinter and decline during 2011, largely because they don’t seem to have any member who can read or write.

And in America, where mainstream politics are further to the right, the far-right have always found a home within the Republican Party, which ironically seems to rein in their more extreme elements.

Morons to watch: Publicity-seeking Pamela Geller will keep ranting to ever-smaller crowds before vanishing from public view. BNP Leader and British eyesore Nick Griffin may well be ousted as BNP leader. Creepy-looking Dutch MP and inciter of hatred Geert Wilders will continue to be the rallying point for Nazis across Europe.

Probability: 50% – very much depends on whether Islamist terrorist morons (or people pretending to be Islamist terrorist morons) succeed in any major attacks in the West during this year. Also depends on unemployment levels across Europe.

Prediction 4: US economy will gain strength as UK weakens

2011 will provide the results of the big test: stimulus spending (as tried by the Obama administration and by the outgoing Labour government in the UK until May) and government spending cuts (as favoured by the UK’s new Conservative leaders). UK consumers are already reacting badly to VAT rises and government jobs cuts… which is likely to lead to lower tax revenues, and the need for even more cuts (as already demonstrated in Ireland).

Morons to watch: the new Republican speaker John “Crybaby” Boehner needs to help derail the recovery if the Republicans are to have a good chance of winning the 2012 presidential elections. UK Prime Minister David “Rich Boy” Cameron will announce that the recovery is weaker than expected (without taking the blame) and “regretfully” announce further spending cuts.

Probability: 60% – depends on many factors including Prediction 5…

Prediction 5: Oil price rises, morons draw wrong conclusions

Upwards pressure on oil prices continues for simple reasons: the easiest-to-reach supplies are dwindling, pushing oil companies to exploit more expensive sources like oil sands and deep-sea wells. America uses in excess of a quarter of the world’s oil supplies, but developing countries are growing much faster than the West, and use more oil each day.

If your friend was addicted to a substance that is becoming increasingly expensive and hard to come by, which of the following advice would you give them?

  1. Try to use less of it, or
  2. Keep using more, and spend more time and money looking for new supplies.

The oil industry runs the Republican Party, and the Republican Party now runs the House of Representatives, so America will try 2) the moron approach. Being chronically addicted to oil, the moron approach is to spend huge amounts of money to find more oil, and deepen the addiction in the process, leading to an even deeper crash when global oil supplies finally peak. At the time of writing, the oil price is $89 per barrel, and will probably be significantly higher at the end of 2011.

Being so deeply in the grip of oil morons, America’s choices are a painful adjustment now, or an even more painful adjustment later. “Kicking the can down the road” is the moronic choice, and no doubt the approach America will take. Meanwhile China, apparently less in awe of everything the oil industry says, is investing heavily in green energy alternatives.

Morons to watch: The newly-empowered Republicans will stall attempts to invest in green energy, and try to kill rail investment (which would cut transport energy usage). The oil industry will continue to claim that there are centuries of oil supplies left, despite all the evidence. Morons will complain that the price of gas keeps rising, but keep on driving their SUVs anyway.

Probability: 80%

And finally… Predictions 6 and 7: Jesus won’t return and the world won’t end

And now for some morons we can all laugh at (well, almost all of us anyway).

A group calling itself We Can Know ran posters last year in Nashville, Tennessee to advertise their web site. They claim that Jesus will return on May 21 2011, and the world will end on October 21 2011. Their campaign was reported in The Tennessean, but the story was later removed (original link). Meanwhile, many other groups have settled on December 21 2012 as the true date.

For those who believe in the Rapture, and are worried about their pets’ wellbeing after they float up to heaven, a kindly group of atheists have set up a pet care service.

Morons to watch: look out for religious nuts acting even angrier than usual when they wake up on May 22 and find they shouldn’t have sold all their worldly belongings on eBay for a dollar.

Probability: 100% (actually, make that 99%… just in case)