This forum is about wrong numbers in science, politics and the media. It respects good science and good English.
Changing the way we transport rubbish from the house to the dustbin is hardly likely to bring western industry to its knees. Let people have their bags, let supermarkets charge for them if it makes people feel better. Kwik Save always charged for bags, which (their demise notwithstanding) shows there is a place in the market for businesses that do this, even in Britain. If rubbish bags or supermarket carriers are ending up in the sea in quantities sufficient to cause measurable damage to wildlife there is something wrong with rubbish disposal - after all, they aren't all dumped there by people on beach holidays or drunken ships crews. So we can assume that a lot of companies are being paid by their customers to dispose of rubbish properly and fly-tipping it in the sea, in vast quantities. The solution is simple. Find them and punish them.
Here in Germany almost all domestic waste is incinerated and the heat piped to buildings fortunate (or unfortunate) enough to be located near enough to an incinerator. Last I heard we were importing waste caused by the rubbish crisis in Naples, to heat our homes. That sounds like a good business proposition - get paid to get hold of something of value.
I know it's off topic but incineration is obviously the way to go. But, the Greens won't have it because of....dioxin...the hated chemical that is always present when mixed rubbish is incinerated, including garden waste and wood. Talk about bad science.
The Anti-incinerator debate is always one of concern.
Any proposal for an incinerator is automatically opposed.
The mechanics are now standardised with the same "letters to your MP" being circulated for everyone to sign and send in; opposition appears to be via the same game book in every case. One can't help but wonder if the NIMBYs are aware that they are increasingly being manipulated like a zombie army.
The difference between Britain and Germany must surely be in the effectiveness of the greens.
Of course, greens like to project a win win situation and their solutions are always beneficial to the environment simply because they refuse to admit of the alternatives. Incineration in a well designed, regulated and inspected facility in a country known for its ability to deliver such incinerators is, to me, far better than not incinerating if it means, for example, that drums of toxic waste are loaded onto ships and then "washed over-board" in a storm to float up on some west African beach somewhere.
It is noticed that in some instances even the greens have to admit the problems.
Look at the so called "renewables"; out of all the options, hydro-electric, wind, wave, solar etc. and see how many have proven to be environmentally friendly. It sometimes seems that the voice of reason comes from those who value birds more than people and who point to the dangers of windfarms and, incidentally, to the dangers of distilate fuels rather than heavy fuel oil for shipping. Black tar like heavy fuel oil makes great publicity for the greens when there is a spill but the bird society points out that it is often much easier to clean up and manage than distillates.
Then too, biodiesel.... the reason why food prices are rocketing up; not all biodiesel is green say the greens faced with the enthusiasm of Indonesia to slash and burn more forests for palm oil not only burgeoning pollutants into the atmosphere but threatening the last reserves of the orang outang and the Sumatran rhino. (one poor enthusiast was heard to complain that everyone wants to save elephants and polar bears but no one will support protection of the European brown rat). In SOuth America, slash and burn will be directed at sugar cane production. Same sort of problem.
The target? to reduce CO2.
The result? increased NOX due to the impact of agriculture on NOX production. NOX from fossil fuels is about 1% of anhropogenic NOX, most coming from agriculture and biomass burning, but anthropogenic NOX is around 12% of the total (say "Hi!" t those little bacteria which account for the bulk of NOX production)
Fuel combustion will give us some NOX whichever fuel it is.
So in pursuit of some absurd supposition that we are causing the planet to warm, probably as the result of one man's manipulation of temperature data and the campaigning of Al Gore, we could actually be doing significantly more harm to the planet and ourselves as a consequence even than we would do if we were causing global warming and just got on with it.
Well in Germany the greens are a very strong political force, consistently poll between 5% and 15%, are represented in the national parliament and most state parliaments, were a junior partner in the last governing coalition (where they iced all ongoing nuclear projects), and in coalition governments in several state parliaments where, of course, they wield influence disproportionate to their mandate (but I can hardly complain since my party, the FDP, one of the few remaining sane voices ranged against the statist and increasingly indistinguishable CDU and SPD, also wields disproportionate influence when in coalition).
I live about 250m from an incinerator and it's pretty unobtrusive. The major differences between the UK and Germany are as follows:
1) There are €350,000 houses within 250 metres of this incinerator whereas in the UK all those wealthy people would ensure it got built near poor people instead/move out and claim lots of compensation when it did.
2) I have never been troubled by the presence of the incinerator and, as far as you can tell with the naked eye, what comes out of the smokestack is relatively unobjectionable (must be lots of CO2 because of the clean burn) whereas in the UK you know that it would be so badly designed or built that noxious vapours and noise would make life unbearable.
3) Locals get a dividend in the form of cheap heating (and reduced rubbish collection costs since the waste can be sold for fuel) whereas in the UK the heat would be generously donated to the atmosphere and the fuel value of the waste is therefore zero.
4) The thing is actually there, whereas in the UK a planning inquiry would delay it by 25 years whereupon the next lot of politicians, not wanting to get booted out, would quietly shelve it and continue dumping the stuff into landfill to rot and leach toxic crap into the groundwater for decades to come.
> 4) The thing is actually there, whereas in the UK a planning inquiry would delay it by 25 years whereupon the next lot of politicians, not wanting to get booted out, would quietly shelve it and continue dumping the stuff into landfill to rot and leach toxic crap into the groundwater for decades to come.
Things have changed and the British Government has now moved to Brussels and is called the European Commission. Thanks to their massive fines if landfill use is not reduced the good burghers of the UK are going to get waste incinerators whether they want them or not. It's either that or pay through the nose to recycle things to the Third World. Or perhaps both. There is no other choice. We have just had the announcement of regional waste authorities which will not be accountable to voters, unlike councils. This is in response to the recent local elections where up to thirty councils changed hands because of the abandonment of weekly bin collections. This can not be allowed to happen again.
BTW modern landfills don't leach into the groundwater they are all lined to avoid this problem. The methane burn-off can also be used to generate power. They are a good solution, although IMHO incineration might be better.
If you want to read about one group opposing incinerators go here:-
I was under the impression planning decisions in the UK were taken by local authorities, not Brussels. If the UK gets incinerators "because" of Brussels that's still their will. The government is (read: should) be there only because the people have decided to devolve certain powers to it because anarchy is not desirable. If the government decides to devolve some of those powers reversibly (withdrawal from the EU is always an option, or will be if Lisbon ever gets ratified by every member state) then that is entirely their decision. If the people don't like it they can vote for someone who'll change things, but last time I checked there were two fringe lunatic parties calling for EU withdrawal, they had various nobodies fighting over who got to be the big cheese, and they weren't getting much support.
In practice, no EU directive gets passed without prior consent of several governments of several big member states - the structure of the commission sees to it that anything Merkel, Sarkozy, Berlusconi or Brown don't want ain't gonna happen. The British problem with the commission is that while most countries send has-been heavyweights (former prime ministers and chancellors) off on the gravy train, Britain sends flyweight never-were's. Is it any surprise people like Mandelson, Kinnock, Patten, and Britten are not taken seriously?
I'd rather the structures were made more democratic and would do this by giving the European parliament more teeth, which is exactly what the Euroskeptics don't want to see, because it would legitimise that which they want to destroy.
That said, I am never surprised to hear Brits on their two minutes hate against the EU. You have all of the costs and none of the benefits. The British government gold-plates every piece of EU legislation, actively enforces stuff which should be passively enforced (like the "prohibition" on using imperial measures - there is no such thing, or if there is someone needs to tell the market traders in Cologne), and gets permanent opt-outs from all the big projects that make life easier for ordinary citizens such as Schengen and the Euro. The sight of British immigration officers holding up British and European citizens in hour-long queues every time you land at Heathrow - the cars impounded and crushed by British customs because someone had a pack of cigarettes too many, and the bank rip-offs when changing an increasingly worthless pound just to cross a border which shouldn't be there any more - not to mention the fact that British banks find it harder to operate in the Eurozone because of the currency risk, when the UK banking sector should be blowing the continental competition out of the water in the personal financial services market, these are things to blame the British government for. You can't argue that Britain is incapable of negotiating special deals with Europe, Britain has many special arrangements. It just negotiates the wrong way!
"You can't argue that Britain is incapable of negotiating special deals with Europe, Britain has many special arrangements. It just negotiates the wrong way!"
So what you are saying confirms the argument really.
The UK Govt can only negotiate crap non-deals, which they do because they are desperate to be seen to be doing something. Anything will do. Avoid the hard stuff, accept the rubbish and then blame the EU group think.
Is that about right?
Seems to be in that TB and even more so GB (who will have been around for all of it) seem to have done nothing more that give away - which is not exactly the most promising form of 'negotiation'.
Almost right, except the UK government negotiates some pretty huge deals - the CAP rebate, exemption from Schengen, exemption from the Euro, social chapter, vetos. We all know agricultural subsidies should be wound up or at least drastically reformed (carefully and without placing our food security in the hands of the Mugabes and Gadaffis of this world) and the whole system is corrupt, grossly unfair and needs a radical overhaul (an overhaul which might actually happen under QMV that Britain so strongly objects to), but what's the bloody point of being in the EU at all without the last two?
Schengen and the Euro are two of the biggest achievements of European integration. Along with freedom to live and work in any EU country they make millions of ordinary citizens' lives easier every single day. They take power away from governments and put it right back in the hands of the people and I'm all for governments having less power. No government can tell me not to go to another country, or even check to see when I am doing so, or not to buy something from another country, or tarrif me when I do, or tell me I can't sell my labour in another country. Brits standing in their interminable airport queues on the way back from beer and fish and chips in Torremolinos mostly have no idea of the degree of freedom that European integration has brought to those resident on the continent, and which their government is wilfully withholding from them. The British government doesn't compromise on very much and I think that actually damages Britain.
You're certainly right about TB and GB - they are hopeless negotiators compared to Thatcher and Major - I don't necessarily think either MT or JM negotiated in the country's best interests but they did a far better job at negotiation. Brown and Bliar are showmen (ironically given Major's background), not businessmen. I agree 100% with John Brignell's analysis that the lack of real world experience at anything at all is a bad way to start a political career.
There is one major problem with the EU, the various countries that make it up are composed of quite different people, different from each other far more radically than the different USA States differ from each other.
This means that there are some pretty petty jealousies at work and some issues which are founded on genuine policy differences.
Now take the EU Chancellor or what ever he is called. In fact consider any position of any importance.
Herr Tietmeyer who did a very good job for the German Economy. He might have made an excellent EU chancellor. But the German Fiscal policy was so radically different to that of the French that he just wouldn't do. Ditto the French candidate.
Basically what the internal differences do is ensure that the best man for the job is always left out in the cold and the top jobs usually go to an someone far down the list.
It is all very well to point to some of the benefits of the EU, which are there but precious few of them, benefits enjoyed by some non-members, but they do not prove the value of the other goodies on offer.
I would not include the ability to work in any EU country among them, witness that the UK is now flooded with East Europeans and Russian or Bulgarian seems to be the official language in our local superstore and note that as usual the UK is out of step in allowing unlimited access and yet other European countries have somehow managed to avoid this for the newest members. It appears this is a club where some members are more equal than others.
The EU has almost nothing to do with fiscal policy and neither did most of the pre-euro central banks! I can think of two market-bucking consequences for taxation of EU membership - the general prohibition on reduction of VAT rates (which I think is crazy) and restrictions on public borrowing by Eurozone countries (growth and stability pact), which is eminently sensible. Governments shouldn't be able to buy votes today by making tomorrow's taxpayers foot the bill.
As for continental restrictions on freedom of employment, I think this was a mistake on the part of the western continental countries, Britain did the right thing in opening its labour market. Russia is not part of the EU and Bulgarians do not yet have unrestricted access to the UK job market so it's more likely you're hearing Polish or Czech in your supermarket. Cool. The only Poles you'd have met 20 years ago would have been cruising London in a black Zil with diplomatic numberplates. All the western continental countries have to do the same thing by 2011 at the latest anyway, so they are merely delaying the inevitable.
I'd love to hear an explanation of how protectionism in the labour market makes you better off. After all, it makes life more expensive for the consumer in everything else, why should selling labour be subject to special restrictions? I presume you're happy that free and competitive markets have reduced the cost of your energy, food, car etc. Why shouldn't the same thing apply to labour? As an employer you can cast your net far wider to find better (and cheaper) staff, while as an employee you have more opportunities than ever before.
I don't think the EU being made up of "quite different people" is remotely relevant. Not to mention the fact that the continued existence of Switzerland gives the lie to the idea that disparate peoples are incapable of living together, co-operating with each other and sharing the same rights and responsibilities, you could say the same thing about Dorset and Northumberland. In fact you could say the same thing about Dorset period. We are all individuals now, I identify primarily, to varying degrees, with my family, my friends, my employer, my colleagues and my neighbourhood. My countries of birth (UK), current residence (Germany), previous residence (Italy), and indeed Europe as a whole are a long, long way down the list of labels I apply to myself. Mostly they're just things I receive tax demands from. I'd lend my neighbour €100 because he's my neighbour (and I have a reasonable chance of getting it back). I wouldn't lend an English guy €100 just because he's English, and I suspect you feel the same. So in what way does my nationality define me, or demand of my allegiance? It's almost completely irrelevant. I think of myself as Mancunian before English. I don't think having freedom of movement between Latvia and Portugal is any different to having freedom of movement between Poole and Newcastle. Conservative Anglicans in Huddersfield and conservative muslims in Bradford manage to share a county with the gay hippies in Hebden Bridge, so I think we can learn to share a continent with people with political, religious and economic views which differ from our own. In fact, I don't think we have a choice but to learn how to do this.
Actually I have known poles for some time. Notably a Polish Paratrooper who came during the war and did not go back.
It seems from today's news that many Poles holidaying in Poland have decided not to come back.
The idea of the market being made up of completely different people is very relevant. It is exactly that which made the choice of Wm Duisberg so problematic as the French and German views on monetary policy were/are so very different.
I'm not entirely sure that the relatively low cost of, for example, food in recent times in the UK can be attributed to free and competitive markets without also observing that those same markets are now providing a complete reversal of the trend that has in a very short time just about wiped out any fiscal benefit we may have gained from the previous few years.
Food and energy have certainly seemed to go that way. I don't think we ever had cheap cars in the UK but that's another matter. In engineering is seems that various forms of consolidation have have more effect than market freedoms with a lot of effort being made to spin the concept of increased choice when in fact the options have been reducing.
As an employee I'm not sure there are more employment opportunities either, certainly not by type of job, though the number of call centres has increased noticeably.
I can't quite see the point of encouraging free movement of labour if it means paying more of the previously resident population to do nothing. Likewise importing skills that can just as easily take themselves elsewhere as other countries 'liberalise' their labour controls rather than training and retaining skills using people who are perhaps less likely to dpeart fo new pastures seems like a recipe for potential and sudden disaster a short way down the line. Still, as with the NHS, make enough money available and people will see personal benefits in the economics of flying in for a weekend's work on a regular basis.
I guess that just leaves the ever increasing costs of attempting to extract taxes from those who have moved on. As you point out it may be those demands following people around Europe, or perhaps the world, that eventually provide some semblance of 'belonging' for many people.
None of this is new, though the scale and speed of change may be without prior experience.
Disagreement between the French and German governments on monetary policy is also of minimal relevance. Every government which signed up to the Euro knew what the deal was - the ECB would be independent (as far as possible) of political interference and set interest rates to control inflation - i.e. modelled on the Bundesbank/Bank of England. Now I don't read all of the small print every time I sign a contract, that's what I employ politicians to do! The value of the euro and its effect on exporters can go hang - it was introduced primarily to facilitate trade amongst a group of countries that do most of their trade with each other and surprisingly little with the outside world - with the exception of Germany which is the world's biggest exporter, and isn't having any more problems with a strong Euro than it did with a strong Deutschmark. The euro wasn't introduced to make life easy for the handful of club med exporters who were only competitive with a perpetually devaluing currency - and governments that complied by printing more money every time things got tough.
How has encouraging the free movement of labour resulted in you paying more of the British indigenous population to do nothing? I was given to understand that unemployment claims have gone down recently. Labour was moving into the UK because there was work to be done and no-one to do it. Importing labour isn't an alternative to "training and retaining" - indeed freedom of movement provides a huge incentive to employers to train their staff and retain them by paying them properly. If I were desperate for a pay rise I could simply entertain the advances of the next headhunter who calls, fly off to Latvia or Sweden or wherever for an interview, come back armed with an offer and ask for more money or leave. Similar pressures work in lower skilled jobs too even if the wheels turn a little slower - but ultimately if there is better money available elsewhere, people will follow it. The NHS pays the "Ryanair locums" a rate dictated by the market. It's a lot of money because the rest of the package is crap - I spent most of my academic career in UK hospitals and they are very unpleasant places to work. Doctors get very few perks from their employers that most equivalent professionals in business would take for granted - so they demand more money than said professionals instead. If the NHS were likewise free of government restrictions (namely foreign-trained doctors are at a severe disadvantage and effectively forced to work at lower grades than they are qualified for) it could instead think about taking on overseas doctors on a more permanent basis, which would reduce the cost of employment considerably. As usual, it's governments getting involved in the transactions which people freely enter in to which screws things up.
The whole aim of a free labour market is to widen the range of personal freedoms you and everyone else enjoys. You aren't forced to work in Sweden, or Poles to work in Britain - you just have the option. If you don't want it then don't exercise it, but don't take it away from people that do want it. Raise the drawbridge and you could hypothetically have 5.5 million expatriate Britons repatriated. You won't make room for them by kicking out the Poles and Czechs.
Market prices for energy, food etc are going up because the raw materials costs are going up. The costs would be yet higher under the old system of monopoly suppliers because they would still have to cover their costs. Iran and Venezuela famously have extremely cheap and subsidised fuel - but are now having to ration it because the governments have finally understood the concept of opportunity cost. A barrel of oil burned in an Iranian car which is inefficient because there is no incentive to reduce fuel consumption is a barrel of oil that hasn't been sold for hard cash to an overseas customer. The same would happen if you ended up with the UK government subsidising fuel bills in the wake of recent price increases. Someone has to pay for it - and the full cost of using it - in my political and economic philosophy that should usually be the person using it. Socialising costs is something that should only be considered when there are overwhelming reasons to do so and people cannot be persuaded to socialise "by consent". The cost of rebuilding my house should it burn down is one I socialise by consent by buying insurance. Health insurance is arguably something I should be forced into by the government because now in my youth, I would be much better off just to pay for my ~annual visit to a doctor than extortionate socialised health insurance, but in 40 years time I will probably not be able to afford all the care I need out of pocket. I'm not satisfied that I should be subsidising anyone's gasoline bill either directly or through expecting the exchequer to forfeit an opportunity cost (which has the same effect of increasing my tax bill).
Venezuela has abundant resources of oil and especially the Orinoco basin. The problem for them is Huog Cahvez, one of Red/Green Ken's friends.
He has done enormous harm to the oil industry there and virtually de-skilled the industry.
One product especially was Orimulsion. Hugo has proven a difficult man to deal with.
Take a look at the New Brunswick power company problems .
Hugo was using his "cheap" fuels to try to undermine the US economy. He then decided to sign an exclusive deal with China for the supply of Orimulsion. They even set up a brand new facility. Then Hugo cancelled the deal leaving China in the lurch and prompting them to have to try and purchase Heavy Fuel oil on the open market. Significantly more expensive the sudden demand from China pushed the price still higher. This at a time when crude prices were rising already (which prompted Hugo to reclassify Orinoco crude and hence cancel the orimulsion deals).
So Venezuela at least has not made any prudent regulation of oil exporting and his internal refining capacity is a mess.
Yeah, never underestimate the power of a government to screw its citizens. If Venezuela sold its oil on the open market rather than using it as a crude (pun intended) political tool, it could be a much richer country. But if Venezuelans really are so infused with socialist ideaology to the degree that they're prepared to sell their property for less than it's worth, then why should I stop them? I see this (and indeed the ever-expanding remit of government in general - from something most people ignored 200 years ago to 50% or more of the economy and 90% of the evening news these days) as a problem with democracy. Anything, even monumentally stupid things, can get passed if you have the consent of a majority - or more usually the consent of the largest minority, but we know that in the real world things should not be decided by weight of popular opinion (or indeed its contrary). God doesn't exist just because a referendum on the issue would probably produce a "yes" vote - if anything the lesson of history is that most people are wrong on most things most of the time - I don't consider myself to be an exception. I wouldn't like to argue against democracy, I believe it was Churchill who described it as the least worst way to govern and in considering the alternatives I agree - but the fact that any agenda can be hijacked by a vocal minority who are tolerated by an apathetic majority needs to be addressed, before we end up with governments running everything, income tax at 100% and bureaucrats deciding what car you'll drive (or rather which yak you'll ride) to which socialist free-store and what goods you'll take home for your reguation meals - irrespective of which party you put in office. A free society is not one in which you get to choose who makes the rules - its one in which you get to make the rules yourself as far as possible.
Thatcher was wrong when she said you can't buck the market. You certainly can - just watch the Fed, ECB and BofE. But when you try to buck a market, someone has to pay - usually not the person doing the bucking but everyone else, which is why hardcore liberals like myself hate governments (or anyone else) manipulating markets absent a very solid justification of why it is in the common good to do so.