Tuesday, 31 March 2009

Another climate change denial "crock of the week"

Another climate change denial crock of the week video. This one demolishes a favourite denier theme - the so called urban heat island effect whereby the deniers claim that the measured heating up of the planet is actually caused by the temperature measuring devices having been placed in urban areas with concrete etc warming things up thus giving false data. This idea actually spawned a denier blog called "Wattsupwiththat".

Monday, 30 March 2009

Adsense progress report

I'm quite impressed with how fast Google's algorithms have zeroed in to (mostly) serve up ads I find acceptable. There is the odd one I hope people wouldn't follow up but after a relatively short time (16 days) it looks OK. All five of today's ads are about climate change or carbon taxes or solar heating.

Friday, 27 March 2009

Power kites, Kitegen and oodles of green energy

I love hang gliding and, as second best, I like paragliding too. I'm also very keen on innovative renewable energy concepts. The development shown in (click to watch - sorry I can't "embed" it) this video sort of combines the two. It shows some Dutch scientists using a kite about the same size as the power kites that they use down in St Ouen's bay for kite surfing like this pic here.
From a 10sq metre kite of this type they can generate 10kw using a computer controlled auto-pilot to fly a figure of eight pattern in the sky. There are much larger versions that are being worked on and the cost per unit is projected to be cheaper than that from coal fired stations.

Here is a video, about this type of power generation, in somewhat more depth from one of the TED (Technology, Entertainment, Design) talks that feature radical far-sighted people. This is by Saul Griffith who runs Makani Power (amongst other things).

An objection that can be raised is that these kite systems take up some airspace, but someone calculated that the airspace above nuclear power stations (which are no-fly zones) is big enough to generate just as much electricity as the nuke station can below, cheaper and with no waste either! Get rid of the nukes and just keep the no-fly zones...

I am just about convinced that power kites will be a very significant development for renewable energy and will be much better than conventional wind turbines, onshore or offshore.

Here's a few links:

Makani power Griffiths' outfit has had a second grant from Google

Kitegen in Italy This outfit is thinking really big

The MAGENN system Probably not so flexible and certainly more expensive but gets around the "no wind days" problem differently because it's a sort of tethered airship and does not need to be reeled back in.

Rainforests are just great!

Biofuel systems that make ethanol from corn and other food crops are a really bad idea that has been seized on by American "pork barrel" politics. They put up the price of basic food stuffs and don't even come out that well on an energy balance which compares fossil fuel energy put in to the manufacturing process with usable ethanol energy out. Sometimes the energy benefit can be negative!

Some of these ethanol plants are struggling or going bankrupt which is probably no bad thing. There is currently a lot of research going on into trying to make "cellulosic" biofuel (from stems and wood and sawdust etc) which would be better environmentally and what follows is news that nature has probably got there first.

click here for full article from guardian.co.uk

A tree fungus could provide green fuel that can be pumped directly into tanks, scientists say. The organism, found in the Patagonian rainforest, naturally produces a mixture of chemicals that is remarkably similar to diesel.

"This is the only organism that has ever been shown to produce such an important combination of fuel substances," said Gary Strobel, a plant scientist from Montana State University who led the work. "We were totally surprised to learn that it was making a plethora of hydrocarbons."

In principle, biofuels are attractive replacements for liquid fossil fuels used in transport that generate greenhouse gases. The European Union has set biofuel targets of 5.75% by 2010 and 10% by 2020. But critics say current biofuels scarcely reduce greenhouse gas emissions and cause food price rises and deforestation. Producing biofuels sustainably is now a target and this latest work has been greeted by experts as an encouraging step.

The fungus, called Gliocladium roseum and discovered growing inside the ulmo tree (Eucryphia cordifolia) in northern Patagonia, produces a range of long-chain hydrocarbon molecules that are virtually identical to the fuel-grade compounds in existing fossil fuels.

Thursday, 26 March 2009

Cold fusion resurfaces

One of my long term interests apart from environmentalism is the so-called discredited field of cold fusion. Back in 1989, Martin Fleischmann and Stanley Pons at the University of Utah announced the tantalising prospect of abundant, almost-free energy, but their claims of fusion reactions in a tabletop experiment were dismissed by nuclear physicists. Most people forgot about it but a never-say-die contingent of experimental scientists continued to investigate.

There have been thousands of papers published (check out LENR-CANR.ORG for links to 500+) and a number of people have been reporting on progress in the field and being "cold fusion advocates" since 1989. I am one of them and I occasionally do a bit of work for an online e-magazine that follows the topic (NEW ENERGY TIMES) - for a sample issue click here

Anyway, some very reliable experiments have been done over the last few years and a particularly good example has just hit the media which will be hard for mainstream science to ignore. The guardians of scientific orthodoxy have been rubbishing the topic for 20 years. Here's a link to the New Scientist report
Cold fusion resurfaces

Wednesday, 25 March 2009

Copenhagen climate conference, Wimberley and Ferguson

Deputy Wimberley sent an email to all States members which included this link to a 13th March Telegraph article.

Senator Sarah Ferguson then emailed all States Members with a link to a report on a conference of climate change deniers that took place recently (sponsored by a far-right US "think tank"). These are my thoughts following.

The answer to Sarah's highly irresponsible garbage is to ask the question - what happens if her sources are wrong or what happens if the IPCC predictions are wrong? Scientific hypotheses, conclusions and predictions are forever tentative until tested by reality. It is possible to do a risk analysis on the various outcomes. Firstly, we have to remember that the climate has massive inertia. Changing emissions now will take at least a couple of decades to have an effect. If we halted all emissions now, the climate would carry on changing from the historic emissions since the 90's.

If Sarah is correct and global warming will be negligible or beneficial in the future then there will be a lot of eggs on many faces in 20 years or so but the action we would have already taken by then would have put us well on the way to transitioning away from oil and towards renewable energy (inevitable at some point anyway) so in no way would it be wasted effort or investment. If the IPCC is correct, then we are in for a lot of trouble and any delay in reducing greenhouse gas emissions will be irresponsible. If both Sarah and the IPCC are wrong and the strongest "alarmists" like Hansen and Lovelock are correct, then delaying immediate strong action to severely reduce emissions will render the delayers criminally responsible for a Holocaust of unimaginable, unprecedented proportions and the probable destruction of human civilisation. Surely it's a no-brainer as to the sensible, prudent way to go?

The deniers make a lot of deceitful noise about the computer models being just models and that the predictions they make may well be wrong or well off. They are correct! The models' predictions can only be truly tested by running the experiment to see if the outcome matches the predictions. However, the denier assumption is that any putative errors in the models will come out in our favour which is just highly irresponsible and is wishful thinking! The laws of physics and philosophy state that the validity of such thinking absolutely cannot be proved in advance of us "running the experiment" - by which time it would be much too late if the result is dangerous. An analogous risk analysis would be rather like remembering Dirty Harry and the punk, neither of whom knew for certain whether Callahan had fired the last bullet or if his gun still had one bullet left...

"I know what you're thinking. "Did he fire six shots or only five?" Well, to tell you the truth, in all this excitement I kind of lost track myself. But being as this is a .44 Magnum, the most powerful handgun in the world, and would blow your head clean off, you've got to ask yourself one question: Do I feel lucky? Well, do ya, punk?"

People like Sarah are hoping, without certain knowledge, that there are no bullets in the climate change gun. Remember what happened to the punk? He felt lucky (and died). Sarah has a right to her belief but she has no right to allow that pernicious and risky set of beliefs to spread and expose the rest of us to a possibly severe risk. Her duty is to keep her mouth shut and stop muddying the waters and poisoning the well.


Re Sarah's link

All you really need to know about the deniers conference (that is the subject of the link) is the bottom line.
"Videos of all conference presentations, lecture notes, and slides are being incrementally posted on the web site of the conference's main sponsor, The Heartland Institute"

Heartland is a rabid US libertarian/ultra-republican think tank source of at least misleading info - at worst, black propaganda. Now that even the oil companies do not sponsor the very small number of denier scientists, there are very few havens left for these deniers to get funding.

Remember, the vast majority of research and published peer reviewed climate science backs up the IPCC statements *AS A MINIMUM*. Some go further, like Hansen.

A useful exercise is to imagine that there are only two equally good scientists - one's work suggests that the globe is heating up, that it is primarily caused by humans and will almost certainly be dangerous. The other's work acknowledges that the globe is heating, that humans are partially responsible but it won't be a problem or may be beneficial. This last position is that of Richard Lindzen, the most credible of the denier scientists bar none - just about all of the rest mentioned are not credible to real climate scientists. The "Brussels journal" link mentions "A second keynote speaker at the Climate Conference -- Richard Lindzen, the Sloan Professor of Meteorology at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology"

N.B. Lindzen the denier conference's "second keynote speaker" said this (in 2006) "We are quite confident (1) that global mean temperature is about 0.5 °C higher than it was a century ago; (2) that atmospheric levels of CO2 have risen over the past two centuries; and (3) that CO2 is a greenhouse gas whose increase is likely to warm the earth (one of many, the most important being water vapor and clouds). But – and I cannot stress this enough – we are not in a position to confidently attribute past climate change to CO2 or to forecast what the climate will be in the future. [T]here has been no question whatsoever that CO2 is an infrared absorber (i.e., a greenhouse gas – albeit a minor one), and its increase should theoretically contribute to warming. Indeed, if all else were kept equal, the increase in CO2 should have led to somewhat more warming than has been observed."

OK, so we have our two opposed scientists who are nowhere near as far apart as the deniers would have you believe. As there is an absence of certainty in any scientific future prediction, we have to use the techniques of risk analysis to decide what to do. It's like the "Dirty Harry" quote above. If we're lucky, there won't be a problem. If we're unlucky, there will be a problem. If we're very unlucky, billions will die and human civilisation will be just about destroyed. Big "ifs". We have to choose wisely based upon an uncertain outcome that cannot be definitively predicted.

As I'm sure you realise, in reality, it's not simply one scientist versus another, as in my example, but an overwhelming number, whose work supports the IPCC conclusions, versus a very small minority of frequently marginal scientists, most of whom haven't published any research in this area in recent years themselves. Also many well known deniers are non-scientists who masquerade as scientists (such as Monckton) by fooling people with rhetoric dressed up to look like science.

Not many people now believe that our States are capable of making too many sensible decisions but if the rest of the States give the "Sarahs" any credence they could pursue an incalculably destructive course out of ignorance and arrogance and ongoing delusions of their own adequacy.

Tuesday, 24 March 2009

Climate denial "crock of the week"

This is one of about 8 or 9 Youtube videos which demolish many of the pernicious deceptive myths and black propaganda that the climate denial lobby put out. This one targets one of the ideas of major denier S. Fred Singer and his highly irresponsible recent book, which puts forward one seriously misleading idea after another. It is prejudicially called "Unstoppable global warming every 1500 years" (click on the link to see a detailed expose of this book) and leans heavily on the so called "mediaeval warm period" and the Viking settlements in Greenland to fool people.

It's very worth looking at the rest of the videos- here's a link to a search page http://www.youtube.com/results?search_type=&search_query=Climate+Denial+Crock+of+the+Week+&aq=f

Monday, 23 March 2009

Global meltdown - and Terry le Sueur and co are chiefly concerned about pensions in 2035!!!

Our States need to get a grip on reality!

World faces 'perfect storm' of problems by 2030, chief scientist to warn

Food, water and energy shortages will unleash public unrest and international conflict, Professor John Beddington will tell a conference tomorrow

by Ian Sample, science correspondent
guardian.co.uk, Wednesday 18 March 2009 17.19 GMT

Food, water and energy shortages will unleash public unrest and international conflict, Professor John Beddington will tell a conference tomorrow

A "perfect storm" of food shortages, scarce water and insufficient energy resources threaten to unleash public unrest, cross-border conflicts and mass migration as people flee from the worst-affected regions, the UK government's chief scientist will warn tomorrow.

In a major speech to environmental groups and politicians, Professor John Beddington, who took up the position of chief scientific adviser last year, will say that the world is heading for major upheavals which are due to come to a head in 2030.

He will tell the government's Sustainable Development UK conference in Westminster that the growing population and success in alleviating poverty in developing countries will trigger a surge in demand for food, water and energy over the next two decades, at a time when governments must also make major progress in combating climate change.

"We head into a perfect storm in 2030, because all of these things are operating on the same time frame," Beddington told the Guardian.

"If we don't address this, we can expect major destabilisation, an increase in rioting and potentially significant problems with international migration, as people move out to avoid food and water shortages," he added.

Food prices for major crops such as wheat and maize have recently settled after a sharp rise last year when production failed to keep up with demand. But according to Beddington, global food reserves are so low – at 14% of annual consumption – a major drought or flood could see prices rapidly escalate again. The majority of the food reserve is grain that is in transit between shipping ports, he said.

"Our food reserves are at a 50-year low, but by 2030 we need to be producing 50% more food. At the same time, we will need 50% more energy, and 30% more fresh water.

"There are dramatic problems out there, particularly with water and food, but energy also, and they are all intimately connected," Beddington said. "You can't think about dealing with one without considering the others. We must deal with all of these together."

Before taking over from Sir David King as chief scientist last year, Beddington was professor of applied population biology at Imperial College London. He is an expert on the sustainable use of renewable resources.

In Britain, a global food shortage would drive up import costs and make food more expensive. Some parts of the country are predicted to become less able to grow crops as higher temperatures become the norm. Most climate models suggest the south-east of England will be especially vulnerable to water shortages, particularly in the summer.

The speech will add to pressure on governments following last week's climate change conference in Copenhagen, where scientists warned that the impact of global warming has been substantially underestimated by the UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. The latest research suggests that sea level rises, glacier melting and the risk of forest fires are at, or beyond, what was considered the worst case scenario in 2007.

Beddington said that shifts in the climate will see northern Europe and other high-latitude regions become key centres for food production. Other more traditional farming nations will have to develop more advanced pesticides or more hardy crops to boost yields, he said. In some countries, almost half of all crops are lost to pests and disease before they are harvested. Substantial amounts of food are lost after haversting, too, because of insufficient storage facilities.

Beddington said a major technological push is needed to develop renewable energy supplies, boost crop yields and better utilise existing water supplies.

Looming water shortages in China have prompted officials to build 59 new reservoirs to catch meltwater from mountain glaciers, which will be circulated into the water supply.

Beddington will use the speech to urge Europe to involve independent scientists more directly in its policy making, using recent appointments by President Barack Obama in the US as an example of how senior scientists have been brought into the political fold. Shortly after taking office, Obama announced what many see as a "dream team" of scientists, including two Nobel laureates, to advise on science, energy and the environment.

* guardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2009

Go wild in Oz!

Just a video of Aussies doing what they do best - having outdoors fun

Hint: click on the HQ button in the bottom row for higher quality.

Thursday, 19 March 2009

The madness of crowds

Here's a cartoon that shows why "Chinese whispers" have been a fundamental part of "growth" economics and illustrates why we get "booms and busts". Wouldn't it be nicer to have a sustainable "steady state" development economy?

p.s. If the picture looks a little small, please click on it to get a larger version.

Taken from today's New York Times
Fed to Buy $1 Trillion in Securities to Aid Economy

Published: March 18, 2009

WASHINGTON — The Federal Reserve sharply stepped up its efforts to bolster the economy on Wednesday, announcing that it would pump an extra $1 trillion into the financial system by purchasing Treasury bonds and mortgage securities.
Having already reduced the key interest rate it controls nearly to zero, the central bank has increasingly turned to alternatives like buying securities as a way of getting more dollars into the economy, a tactic that amounts to creating vast new sums of money out of thin air. But the moves on Wednesday were its biggest yet, almost doubling all of the Fed’s measures in the last year.

Hmmm. The long term effects of this are not very forecastable. At least not by me. My feeling is that it's more of the same "invented money" that the Federal Reserve has been "creating" since the year dot to "expand" and "grow" things. In short, I think it is even more of the same unsustainable fiscal shenanigans that got us into this mess.

I get this image of things like this being analogous to climbing higher up a tall building whose lower levels are on fire. It can be argued that the fire is now further away from you but when it finally catches up and consumes the foundations, your eventual fall with the building will be so much worse. This may be similar to global overpopulation and the various other exponential growth type scenarios that threaten us.

Since the days when Malthus predicted doom and, in the 70's, when the Club of Rome did similarly, we have retreated further up the burning building using new technology and freely available oil to go higher and higher. Short of some miraculous new power source, or expanding into space, we are reaching the limits of what we can do. We only have the equivalent of 150 metres square per person of planetary surface to extract all our demands from...

Wednesday, 18 March 2009

Tesla coil music

If you really have to waste energy, you might as well be amazing while you're doing it! This isn't a special effect BTW, you can hire these guys to put on a show. The show starts about 42 seconds in.

Monday, 16 March 2009

Age of Stupid movie to be released March 20th

The "Age of Stupid" is the new movie from Director Franny Armstrong (McLibel) and producer John Battsek (One Day In September). Pete Postlethwaite stars as a man living alone in the devastated future world of 2055, looking at old footage from 2008 and asking: why didn’t we stop climate change when we had the chance? It will be released in UK cinemas on 20 March 2009, followed by other countries.

The film was simultaneously premiered in 65 places (including the Eden project)

website www.ageofstupid.net

U.K. Minister for Energy and Climate Change Ed Milliband was interviewed afterwards onstage (video below), but he continues to use "growth" as an option! They say that if you're not part of the solution, you're part of the problem and so Milliband must be part of the "Age of Stupid" problem. Until these people begin to integrate their thinking about all the threats - climate change; peak oil; economic meltdown and global population - into one seamless strategy, they will not comprehend that economic growth is no longer an option. Economic development is. Further conventional economic growth is impossible without the worst of all consequences. Somebody please try to get this through to our "Age of Stupid" States.

I am fed up with being polite. I think the time is ripe for people who know their stuff to stand up and call into question the "Age of Stupid" and the politicians and their advisers who promulgate it as somehow sensible and maintain and enhance it with their half baked hubris and their delusions of adequacy. Above all else, they are recklessly fooling the public - whether deliberately or inadvertently is moot. Sustainability is not merely desirable, it is a matter of life or death.

Sunday, 15 March 2009

More less-than-ideal publicity for Jersey

Terry le Sueur didn't come over very well when interviewed by Channel 4 the other night. He got very flustered and gave a similar impression to a "Rogue Trader" confronted after being caught out doing a rip off job for some defenceless old person. What on earth do we pay our States "communications unit" so much money for?

Channel 4's seven minute piece was on tax havens and the "gun to tax haven's heads" last minute signing of the information exchange agreement (ahead of the G20 meeting). They interviewed Terry about it 3 minutes into the story, just after he was filmed signing the "piece of paper" which will undoubtedly give us financial "peace in our time" - or not. It wasn't pretty...

View the video at this link
Terry accidentally shafts Jersey internationally

Friday, 13 March 2009

The first day of Adsense (yesterday) generated some "off the wall" ads including one for an "end of days" Revelations based website and ads for college degrees in the sort of economics which has got us into this current situation.

However, today I was greeted with the primary ad being for becoming "carbon neutral" and there were others for "green" laptops and economic development degrees (maybe OK - generally in ecological economics development is good - growth is bad). N.B. what Phil Ozouf and co. call development isn't - it is growth.

So far, quite reasonable but please, readers, don't take it that any of the companies are endorsed by me. They might be good but alternatively...

Thursday, 12 March 2009


I have installed Adsense to generate ads that, according to Google, should be relevant to the material in this blog. It is supposed to be customisable so that the blogger (me) can tune it i.e if I blog about nuclear power and the Adsense puts an ad for a nuclear power station on, then I'd probably edit things to avoid that happening again. I'll see how it goes before deciding whether to make it permanent.

Monday, 9 March 2009

Mark Forskitt, over at A view from the West , posted that a wall fell down on his property and he needed a couple of dangerous trees taken down. He called a neighbour with a wood burning stove and a chainsaw and both got satisfaction - Mark got his trees dealt with; the neighbour got logs for fuel. Mark also got the branches to turn into wood ash to fertilise his organic smallholding. No money changed hands and so this transaction did not register in society's measures of success, the GDP and GVA.

I posted the following comment on his blog. Note to readers - I often use irony to make a point so if you are not familiar with this technique don't jump to conclusions!

You're a very bad person Mark! Our success is measured by the movement of small green pieces of paper (after Douglas Adams). If you operate in a manner that moves fewer of them about, then when society measures how successful it is, it will note fewer pieces of paper being moved around so we will be measured as being in a recession. People will lose heart and try to stop spending their paper to make ends meet so society will then measure itself as even less successful and so will proceed ad infinitum down the economic plughole.

Looking at the above, it seems obvious that it may be the method of measurement of success itself that causes all the instability problems... The very nub of this is that conventional economics, as used by governments and accountants and economists worldwide, only measures a very few things to come up with its "bottom line" - by discounting other important factors, it does not account for the full costs of business, work etc. Put a value on the "externalities" and the whole unsustainable mess will sort itself out very quickly

Saturday, 7 March 2009

Recession 2 - the sequel

Mike Higgins' talk at the Peirson attracted a roomful of people - about 23-24. Without wishing to stereotype, I would say that finance industry types were probably under-represented. I intersperse my own comments and interpretations throughout this piece.

Mike initially "did a Daniel" by discovering that he had forgotten part of his material but he managed to do a very interesting talk, that covered a lot of material, off the cuff - no-one would have realised if he hadn't told us... he wasn't a lecturer in economics for nothing!

He started by saying that Jersey was not technically in a recession yet but soon would be - this was due to the lag of the figures behind reality. A true recession needs two quarters of negative growth. A depression would be a long term 10% fall in growth. He sketched out the basic reasons why the global economy is in the state it is and suggested that one of the reasons for the almost total lack of credit available at the moment is because the banks and institutions are all suspicious of each other - they don't know who it is safe to lend on to, even if they get deposits, because they don't know who to trust with all the unknown amounts of toxic debts floating around on the other party's balance sheets.

With reference to the Jersey States, Mike said that it was proving extremely hard to get information out of civil servants and he suggested that the Island was run by the top civil servants (who are obviously un-elected). I can't see that this is a healthy situation as, let's just assume, if we had a situation where the top civil servants were neither civil nor our servants and their hierarchical organisation meant that anybody who didn't toe the "from on high" party line couldn't progress in (or even stay in the service), then this would have inevitably lead to a self-reinforcing, self-propagating and virtually impregnable system. Not good. If true, it explains an awful lot of what happens in Jersey. Even when we employ new civil servants from outside the Island, clearly the HR processes of the States are constrained to employ people who will fit in, and be cosy with, the existing Mandarins, structures, employees, beliefs and practices. Very not good.

We heard that in England and Wales, up to 1/3 of the shops are empty and it's a similar picture on the industrial estates.

Mike said that he had had meetings with the Fiscal Policy Panel, a high powered group of three national-level economists who advise the States of Jersey on financial matters. He asked them flat out what they thought about the situation and basically the truth of the matter is that absolutely nobody is sure how this will play out - it is an unprecedented situation - there have been recessions before, and also depressions, but there has never been a global depression/recession before. Bear this in mind next time you hear Terry le Sueur and Philip Ozouf metaphorically singing "the Sun'll come out tomorra - bet your bottom dollar".

Perhaps now the architects of globalisation, "efficiency", competition, mergers and acquisitions, consolidation, outsourcing and downsizing etc etc will come to realise the final consequences of their bankrupt philosophy as the sting in the tail of shifting most manufacturing to China and allowing international finance to grow too big, too speculative and too unregulatable comes home to roost (I love mixing metaphors!).

They all thought simple economic growth would lead everybody to prosperity, employment, security and cheap goods. Instead, it has put the world into a highly vulnerable situation for the next few years, not to mention possible environmental calamity. It's possible the world might just be pulling out of this current economic disaster in three or four years but then, waiting in the wings, there will be the colossal hammer blow of Peak Oil which is forecast to start affecting the global economy within five years as the rate of discovery of new oilfields starts to fail to keep pace with the demand. In this case, the price of energy will go up and up and won't come back down again. This will have an almost unimaginably serious impact on world food prices and availability. Conventional economic growth will become implausible, not to mention irresponsible. Listen to the greenies!

Surely some of the responsibility for the instability that is being played out on the world financial markets is down to the activities of hedge funds which promised to make money for their clients whether markets were rising or falling. When economies are in the "inflating bubble" stage, hedge funds tend to amplify that bubble. Unfortunately, due to their tendency to short currencies and industries during periods of weakness or setback, they act to amplify downturns - amplify recessionary and depressionary pressures. Apparently we have about 1600 hedge funds registered in Jersey which were encouraged to settle here by Philip Ozouf and Alan Maclean. One wonders what Barack and Brown and Sarkozy etc will make of this.

Everybody in the room pricked up their ears when Mike mentioned that at some financial meeting he was at, a figure of 10% GST was mentioned as a possibility and that a civil servant behind him gave a sort of "high-five" yesss! as if he had won a bet...

Mike passed on that the Fiscal Policy Panel say that we need to make contingency plans. For example, if we have a major contraction in Financial Services in Jersey, we will all be in serious trouble. Mike speculated that he thought there were probably people in the room who disliked Finance so much that they would be happy to see it go but he warned everybody that, if Finance went, it would not be pretty for those left. I am no fan of "yuppies" but too many ordinary people have built their lives around the presence of Finance for me to want it to fail. I think somehow Jersey needs a managed retreat from having all our eggs in one basket. It's often the ordinary people just trying to make a modest life for themselves who get hurt the most in these situations, while the Fred Goodwin's of this world waltz off into the sunset with their £600,000 pensions and severance pay. The £140 million Stabilisation fund that they're talking about is only for immediate needs and the £500 million Strategic Reserve - the "rainy day fund" - is for situations as serious as if Finance has to "exit Jersey, stage left".

Mike also talked about what is called "regulatory capture" which is another aspect of us having allowed Finance to get too dominant. The "too big to fail" approach has been used to force taxpayers to bail out and prop up ailing banks and financial institutions because, if we didn't, it is said the ensuing financial meltdown would be too horrendous to contemplate. Similarly, "regulatory capture" refers to the banks and institution's excessive power to dictate the terms under which they operate, or to influence the drafting of Laws to benefit themselves, in their chosen area. Basically, if the States don't play ball with them, they threaten to take their ball away and go somewhere else. In essence, Finance has been able to dictate to government. Our States do not appear to have the testicular fortitude to show any poker playing ability inasmuch as they never - ever - seem to call a bluff (q.v. the Les Pas Holdings silliness).

Clearly, the processes of competition, globalisation, rationalisation, mergers and acquisitions and all the familiar "yuppie" philosophy etc have created monsters which are too big and dangerous and arrogant - they have ended up being pathological to the economic and environmental safety of the world. Of course, in the discipline of ecological economics, the dangers of allowing any one financial "species" to get too dominant or too destructive are all too obvious. It's just a shame that the proponents of classical economics do not realise that they are bound by exactly the same fundamental rules as a biological habitat. "Ye cannae change the laws of physics, Jim!"

Attempting (metaphorically) to create a global "rat and cockroach" economy and doing the equivalent of introducing goats or cane toads into vulnerable environments, was always bound to lead to tears before bedtime. It's just a pity that those in power didn't listen. They're not listening still - perhaps they never will.

Tuesday, 3 March 2009


There is a talk tonight at 7.30pm in the Peirson (next to the Royal Square) by Mike Higgins. It's about the recession and our general financial position. I don't know his angle yet but, like many, I suspect the recession/depression will be worse than Terry le Sueur et al are letting on

Monday, 2 March 2009

I put the following post on Stuart Syvret's "comments" section because of a previous comment (now deleted by me) I made when I was still irritated by the incinerator vote.

"I think it was on this comments section that I wrote an angry post after the incinerator vote claiming that, inter alia, "…The level of stupidity and incompetence on view was just incredible…". I wish to withdraw those comments (and have already deleted them). I may have been mistaken and I would wish to apologise to anyone who was offended by my intemperate language and insinuations, particularly any States Member who is not stupid or incompetent (or both) who was offended. Also a big sorry to any States Member who is stupid or incompetent or both (if there are any) who was offended. I cannot see any reason, other than those I mentioned, to explain the majority decision but that is probably my failing. Perhaps there are hidden factors, that people outside the States don't know about, which would explain their stance, which we would understand if we were told.

The trouble with this hypothesis is that, over the years, numbers of people *inside* the States have said much the same sort of thing as I said about their colleagues, so who knows where the truth lies? Truth will out, as they say. I have a standing £10 bet with Frank Walker that the decision to go for a huge incinerator will be seen as a disastrous one within ten years"

p.s. I meant within ten years of the original decision, not the recent one