This forum is about wrong numbers in science, politics and the media. It respects good science and good English.
In the last couple of days Dr Richard North who writes the eureferendum.com blog has put up two in depth essays why, in his opinion, it is unlikely there will need to be power cuts in this country. This is a subject dear to the hearts of readers of this site, so I thought I'd publish the links here for others to see.
The long and short of it is that the authorities have, on the quiet, been commissioning the building of back up diesel generation plant, which can be brought online at times of peak demand, when there is a shortfall on the grid. It is all hideously expensive, but it enables the illusion of renewable energy, whilst correcting for it's shortcomings. It is no substitute for a sensible energy policy, but there are unlikely to be any power cuts needed. What is a given though is expensive electricity for everyone.
Make up your own minds by reading here.
Energy - the back-up bonanza
Booker - high prices in STOR
Those articles do throw a bit of light on the baffling decentralised energy policy that David Cameron came up with back in 2007 when in opposition. This policy was announced in a speech at Greenpeace's headquarters in London, captured in this video:
In the video from about 2min 45 sec in, he goes on about decentralised energy being used to avoid power blackouts. This particular point is quite baffling if the decentralised energy he is talking about is interpreted as being from intermittently-operating solar panels, but it does make more sense if he was actually referring to networks of diesel generators.
[Looking back with hindsight at Cameron's "Vote Blue Go Green" stuff, of which the above video represents an example, I think Cameron's plan all along from taking over as party leader at the end of 2005 was to form a coalition government with the Lib Dems, and the green policy was intended mainly to win the Lib Dems over]
The last time we were in a potential power blackout situation in the UK was during the 1984-85 coal miners strike, but what saved us then was the practice of bringing 'mothballed' oil-fired power stations owned by the CEGB back into service. In the present day I believe there is estimated to be about 4GW of mothballed gas-fired power stations sitting around in the UK (mothballed due to coal being cheaper than natural gas at the moment), but now that the electricity generation industry is privatised, the utilities will expect to be handsomely paid for de-mothballing them.
Reading the "Booker: high prices in store" blog post, it looks like North (and presumably Booker as well) has mainly decided that the lights are unlikely to go out based on the performance of Michael Fallon in a fairly tough interview with Andrew Neil, where he assured Neil that the Coalition government really did have the potential power shortage situation under control.
It might be worth noting that there was a recent news story published in the Daily Mail that John Hayes (Michael Fallon's predecessor) tried to get the energy firm E.On to "warn of blackouts unless the Coalition watered down its green crusade and made a U-turn on the closure of coal-fired generators", and this apparently resulted in Hayes being kicked out of DECC a couple of months ago.
If the Hayes story is true, this suggests that there is still some risk of the power blackout situation occurring, but DECC have done a much better job in convincing Fallon that it won't happen than they did with Hayes.
To expand on my theory mentioned in my previous post that, with hindsight, Cameron must have intended to form a Coalition government with the Lib Dems all along, I'd say the main piece of evidence for this was Cameron's weird behaviour in engineering a party leader TV debate at the last general election.
The idea of holding a TV debate between the leaders of the two main political parties in the UK has being going on since the late 1960s and is rumoured to be proposed by TV companies just before every general election. My understanding is that which ever party is in second place in the opinion polls going into a general election is generally in favour of the idea, but the party in first place in the polls always turns it down, as they have more to lose if the TV debates happen to go badly from their point of view.
So when Cameron challenged Brown to a TV debate back in 2008, this was quite strange as Labour was very likely to be in second place in the polls when the next general election came along, and Cameron was to some extent throwing Brown a lifeline. The next development in the TV debate story was even stranger - Cameron agreed to the participation of the Lib Dems in the debate, even though the Lib Dems are reputed to take twice as many votes from the Conservatives as they do from Labour.
My explanation for what Cameron was doing is that he must have sounded out the idea of a Coalition with the Lib Dems probably before 2008, and one of their pre-conditions for this was that there had to be a TV party leader debate at the next general election which included them. (The Lib Dems would be the biggest beneficiary out of the three main parties of any TV debate, confirmed by the spectacular temporary bounce in the polls they received when the debates actually happened).
The only problem with this is that it assumes Cameron does joined up thinking.
That he can plan and pull off a strategy designed to put him ahead of the game.
This also assumes that he knew he was a loser from the start, something I'm not sure his ego would allow.
In pretty much everything else, he has shown himself to be an "open mouth and speak", pause (a week, typically) "engage brain" (or get the benefit of some one else's) "Spin out of/into trouble".
This is the man who thought his coalition so secure it would last a parliament and didn't bother to think about the boundaries reform until he began to get a glimmer of what we all already knew, that the Lib Dems were doing the best job of opposition in the last 100 years - from inside government.
This is the man who when the mid-staffs scandal broke tried to cover it up/whitewash it/ bury in under the bulging carpet. It is only months later that it finally dawns on him that this was actually something where the blame wholly and irrefutably lies with labour. It is only now he has recognised this.
So while it is a nice idea and possibly correct if applied to his advisers, if it was Cameron's idea I suspect he thought he would win and that it was a good idea. (Why are political advisers always foreigners, and, if Australian, possibly republicans, if American possibly Marxists? And since his new adviser appears to have diametrically opposed policies to the last one, why do we need Cameron at all? Why don't they simply elect the political advisor as PM? Or, since they profess to be politicians, why do they need political advisers at all?)
In reply to JMW, on the subject of Cameron being keener on Coalition governments with the Lib Dems than in actually winning elections, I noticed this interesting article by Paul Goodman (editor of the 'ConservativeHome' poltical website):
In the article Goodman claims that Cameron is secretly intending to have a second period of Coalition government with the Lib Dems from 2015 to 2020, but defends Cameron on the basis that the Conservatives have not achieved the important constituency boundary changes and reduced number of constituencies that he thinks are necessary for a Conservative victory.
My advice to Conservative MPs would be that they have to try to get rid of Cameron as party leader next year. (One of the new features of the Coalition government is that there are now fixed term parliaments of five years, which is a more helpful arrangement for the less well-funded smaller political parties like the Lib Dems, but the fixed term also now makes it easier for anybody plotting to depose the party leader). If for some reason Cameron is still seen as the best compromise leader they've got (a bit like Jim Hacker in 'Yes Prime Minister'), they would need to introduce some party rule where a Coalition can only be formed if a majority of Conservative MPs agree to it.
Oh the f***** Fixed Term Act.
A travesty of democracy.
A confidence trick. So totally undemocratic my blood boils when I think on it.
The pretended problem: Governments that outstay their welcome e.g. Gordon Brown's.
The situation is where the government, when elected, had a significant majority. It is strong and stable.
Such governments have no problem going to the people if they are still popular, though they may mess about a bit as to he precise timing but the timing really doesn't matter in such cases.
The only problem is when a strong and stable government has become loathed by the people. This is where they tend to hang on for grim death and where they can rely on their MPs wanting to remain on the gravy train as long as possible.
The problem is to force this government to go to the people.
This doesn't require a fixed term, just a limited term.
This problem would have been resolved by an act that said "on or before the fifth anniversary".
But when Cameron and Clegg got together, this was the excuse and not the purpose.
2010 delivered a "none of the above" result.
What we got was a Tory party with a majority but not a clear majority. Cameron claims we voted for a coalition, that it is what we wanted (he really is a moron).
But, such governments are weak and unstable.
The fixed term act was designed to make them strong and stable (even to including a 70% margin rule which surely ought to have been the tip off to the undemocratic nature of this act).
The point Cameron didn't want to accept is that such governments are meant to be weak and unstable. They are meant to fall to any party which can summon up a working majority because to do so they have to become more popular (and thus more representative) with the electorate.
It is only as 2015 looms that Cameron (and/or his new foreign political advisor) has realised that he really needs to be a bit more popular with the voters. Something that, without the fixed term act, he would have been forced to confront by June or July 2010.
It really needs to be carved in stone somewhere: Coalitions and minority governments are meant to be weak and unstable.
Write out 1000 times please.
Yes, this really upsets me.
Sorry gentle readers for the "f*******", I wasn't sure if I could say "flipping".
I have had lesser oaths censured on other sites before now.