Nothing at all to do with dogs, or with integrity if it comes to that!
Regular followers of this place know that I am a tremendous fan of George Monbiot, the Englishman who so regularly exposes stuff that needs to be aired and discussed. As his About page explains:
Here are some of the things I love: my family and friends, salt marshes, arguments, chalk streams, Russian literature, kayaking among dolphins, diversity of all kinds, rockpools, heritage apples, woods, fishing, swimming in the sea, gazpacho, ponds and ditches, growing vegetables, insects, pruning, forgotten corners, fossils, goldfinches, etymology, Bill Hicks, ruins, Shakespeare, landscape history, palaeoecology, Gavin and Stacey and Father Ted.
Here are some of the things I try to fight: undemocratic power, corruption, deception of the public, environmental destruction, injustice, inequality and the misallocation of resources, waste, denial, the libertarianism which grants freedom to the powerful at the expense of the powerless, undisclosed interests, complacency.
Here is what I fear: other people’s cowardice.
I still see my life as a slightly unhinged adventure whose perpetuation is something of a mystery. I have no idea where it will take me, and no ambitions other than to keep doing what I do. So far it’s been gripping.
Way back in the early days of Learning from Dogs, the blog that is, not the book, George was very gracious in giving me blanket permission to republish his posts, and many of them have appeared in this place.
So now read George Monbiot’s latest Rigging the Market. It is yet another example of what is going wrong in these times.
Rigging the Market
3rd February 2016
Oil, the industry that threatens us with destruction, is being bailed out with public money
By George Monbiot, published in the Guardian 3rd February 2016
Those of us who predicted, during the first years of this century, an imminent peak in global oil supplies could not have been more wrong. People like the energy consultant Daniel Yergin, with whom I disputed the topic, appear to have been right: growth, he said, would continue for many years, unless governments intervened.
Oil appeared to peak in the United States in 1970, after which production fell for 40 years. That, we assumed, was the end of the story. But through fracking and horizontal drilling, production last year returned to the level it reached in 1969. Twelve years ago, the Texas oil tycoon T. Boone Pickens announced that “never again will we pump more than 82 million barrels”. By the end of 2015, daily world production reached 97 million.
Instead of a collapse in the supply of oil, we confront the opposite crisis: we’re drowning in the stuff. The reasons for the price crash – an astonishing slide from $115 a barrel to $30 over the past 20 months – are complex: among them are weaker demand in China and a strong dollar. But an analysis by the World Bank finds that changes in supply have been a much greater factor than changes in demand. Oil production has almost doubled in Iraq, as well as in the US. Saudi Arabia has opened its taps, to try to destroy the competition and sustain its market share: a strategy that some peak oil advocates once argued was impossible.
The outcomes are mixed. Cheaper oil means that more will be burnt, accelerating climate breakdown. But it also means less investment in future production. Already, $380 billion that was to have been ploughed into oil and gas fields has been held back. The first places to be spared are those in which extraction is most difficult or hazardous. Fragile ecosystems in the Arctic, in rainforests, in remote and stormy seas, have been granted a stay of execution.
BP reported a massive loss on Tuesday, partly because of low prices. A falling oil price drags down the price of gas, exposing coal mining companies to the risk of bankruptcy: good riddance to them. But some renewables firms are being tanked by the same forces: just as natural gas prices plunge, governments like the UK’s are stripping them of their subsidies. One day they will compete unaided, but not yet.
To cheer or lament these vicissitudes is pointless. They are chance events that counteract each other, and will at some point be reversed. The oil age, that threatens the conditions sustaining life on Earth, will come to an end through political, not economic, change. But the politics, for now, are against us.
Last week, David Cameron flew to Aberdeen, where he announced another £250 million of funding for, er, free enterprise, much (though not all) of which will be used to prop up oil and gas. A further £20 million of public money will be spent on seismic testing. Expect more whale strandings, and ask yourself why the industry that threatens our prosperity shouldn’t cover its own bloody costs.
The energy secretary, Amber Rudd, says she stands “100% behind” this “fantastic industry”. She will “build a bridge to the future for UK oil and gas”. Had she been born 300 years ago, I expect she would have said the same about the slave trade. In a few years’ time, her observations will look about as pertinent and about as ethical.
Oil companies have already been granted “ministerial buddies” to “improve access to government” – as if they didn’t have enough already. Now they get an “oil and gas ambassador”, and a new ministerial group, to “reiterate the UK Government’s commitment to supporting the oil and gas industry”. A leaked letter shows that Amber Rudd and other ministers want to silence local people, by transferring the power to decide whether fracking happens from elected councils to an unelected commission. Let’s sack the electorate and appoint a new one.
Compare all this to the government’s treatment of renewables. Local people have been given special new powers to stop onshore windfarms from being built. To the renewables companies Amber Rudd says this, “We need to work towards a market where success is driven by your ability to compete in a market, not by your ability to lobby government”. Strangely, the same rules do not apply to the oil companies. Your friends get protection. The free market is reserved for enemies.
Yes, I do mean enemies. An energy transition threatens the kind of people who attend the Conservative party’s fundraising balls. It corrodes the income of old school friends and weekend guests. For all the talk of enterprise, old money still nurtures its lively hatred of new money, and those who control the public purse use it to protect the incumbents from the parvenus. As they did for the bankers, our political leaders ensure that everyone must pay the costs imposed by the fossil fuel companies – except the fossil fuel companies.
So they lock us into the 20th Century, into industrial decline and air pollution, stranded assets and – through climate change – systemic collapse. Governments of this country cannot resist the future forever. Eventually they will succumb to the inexorable logic, and recognise that most of the vast accretions of fossil plant life in the Earth’s crust must be left where they are. And those massive expenditures of public money will prove to be worthless.
Crises expose corruption: that is one of the basic lessons of politics. The oil price crisis finds politicians with their free-market trousers round their ankles. When your friends are in trouble, the rigours imposed religiously upon the poor and public services suddenly turn out to be negotiable. Throw money at them, trash their competitors, rig the outcome: those who deserve the least receive the most.
I don’t know about you but I take the view that this essay from Monbiot is to be embraced. Simply because the more that stuff like this is aired, discussed and shared then the more likely that we ordinary folk can make a social and a political difference.
This may not be very Politically Correct but I am getting a bit fed up for the following reasons with Obama’s constant bad-mouthing of BP :
If the regulatory procedures were not strong enough then that is the USA’s fault, not BP’s.
The USA is glad enough to extract oil from ecologically-dangerous places because it is hooked on oil. That isn’t BP’s fault either.
It is bleedin’ obvious that SOONER OR LATER (see previous comments on statistics) there was going to be an accident of this type, yet NO PROPER CONTINGENCY PLAN was in place. That is partly BP’s fault (over-confidence) but also the USA’s fault for not insisting on one.
BP is clearly doing all it can to put things right; constantly rubbishing it seems fairly pointless.
Nobody knows how much BP was to blame; there were other companies involved, including US ones.
In general, the USA has long been too soft on oil companies because it needs the oil.
Now of course we are going to have a pendulum swing the other way, but rather than knee-jerk reactions why not consult and put in place an effective “doomsday scenario” plan? For example, a 20,000 ton concrete dome that could be lowered right over a fractured well to seal it off?
Of course, Obama’s ranting is political. He does NOT want this to be his “Katrina”. However, nobody in their right mind would blame him personally for this accident and now that it has happened it is pretty pathetic to rant about how evil BP is.
What’s done is done. Statistically, there was BOUND to be an accident of this kind one day. By allowing deep-sea drilling the USA MUST HAVE ACCEPTED the risk. If proper and regulatory contingency plans had been in place then the environmental damage might have been minimised.
In general one must say of the Human Race that we aren’t brilliant at anticipating risks and preparing for the worst. Witness carbon emissions and climate change. As a man-in-the-street, the ONLY change in long-held habits that I have seen to combat global warming is that you can no longer in Europe buy old-fashioned light bulbs. Otherwise life seems to go on pretty much as ever, with all governments desperately wishing for growth because of their idiotic over-spending.
STOP PRESS: Above all a President needs to stay calm and rational. There was no reason to stop all off-shore drilling pending the result of an enquiry. This has put thousands of Americans out of work. No, I am NOT minimising the damage; it is tragic and disastrous, but 80% of Louisiana’s economy depends on the oil business.
And we badly need perspective. This is – as I already said – a terrible disaster, but the record of off-shore drilling is in fact extremely good in ecological terms. One bad experience should not lead to the knee-jerk shut-down of the entire industry. Fascinating article in the UK Guardian newspaper. That article concludes thus:
In an open letter to Obama published in Louisiana’s Thibodaux Daily Comet newspaper, local resident Stephen Morris vented fury at the drilling freeze: “If it was a knee-jerk response to everyone’s anger about the continued leak and possible annihilation of southern Louisiana’s way of life, you didn’t think it through or your advisers are smoking way too much crack.”
The evidence is overwhelming. Any fair-minded person who examines the Gulf of Mexico oil spillage is compelled to two conclusions. First, that there is no evidence of wrongdoing by BP. Second, that the President of the United States has behaved disgracefully.
The vessels of the Los Angeles class, the pride of the US nuclear submarine fleet, will not operate below 950ft. If they were to dive to 1450ft, their hulls would implode. The Americans do have three subs which could function at 2,000ft. They cost $3bn each. It follows that drilling for oil below a 5,000ft seabed is a difficult business which involves risks. But it is essential.
Judges in charge of Britain’s controversial new Supreme Court have been provided with robes they will hardly ever wear at a cost of £137,956 to the taxpayer.
The hand-crafted black brocade robes – embroidered with real gold thread – will not be worn by the 12 Supreme Court Justices in normal session.
They will be donned only perhaps twice a year for ceremonies such as the State Opening of Parliament or the beginning of the legal year. The rest of the time, the judges will wear everyday suits.
It’s only money …. plenty more where that came from…
BRITISH POLITICS: Few things are more pathetic than the Liberals‘ current poll rating of 17%, with Labour on 26% That the worst government in the history of the world is still way ahead of the Liberals is of course a tribute to the lunacy of Labour voters, who seem not to understand the terrible damage this govt has done. Still, some of them have done very well under Labour: doctors, judges, high-ranking civil servants, consultants …. all more or less bribed with the people’s money.
Lib-Dems must be very depressed; if you can’t get a decent poll-rating when up against this motley bunch of venal, pompous, pretentious and incompetent misfits then you wonder really what the point of their party is.
Still, you get the government you deserve, so they say. Except that the British voting system is hopelessly undemocratic. In the next election a vote for the Lib-Dems is probably going to be wasted, risking the danger of letting Brown sneak in despite everything.
As for UKIP, it is a perfectly tenable position to want to get out of the EU. I’d guess that 30% of the electorate would want this, and that’s a very conservative estimate. Yet they have NO CHANCE WHATSOEVER of getting ANY representation in parliament.
This is not democracy, but of course it suits the two dinosaur parties very well indeed.
TIGER WOODS: what a pathetic, sordid saga this is. Not his bedroom antics, but the media obsession with it. People are dying all over the world of treatable diseases, of inhuman treatment at the hands of the North Koreans or others. Democracy is destroyed by religious nutters in Iran, millions more tons of ice melt, while politicians bleat uselessly (and expensively) in Copenhagen (I note they didn’t choose Scunthorpe! Might not have got such a good turnout!)
OIL: Oh, and on the climate front and the importance of reducing emissions I note that the Iraqi government is predicting oil output to rise to 12 million barrels a day within a few years – the same as Saudi Arabia.
That IS good news!!!!! … the British Labour government will hit us with every stealth and non-stealth tax you can imagine “to save carbon” and pay for yet more consultants and managers while the rest of the world greedily sups up billions more tons of oil.
Apparently, this has been a bumper year for oil discoveries …. you couldn’t make it up! An extra-terrestrial observer must be scratching his head wondering how the universe could have spawned up such a bizarre species.
Yet the press is full of Woods ….. and because he is good at golf … hitting a ball into a hole, a skill of such nanoscopically-sized irrelevance to the world’s problems. What sort of mentality is it that is even interested in yet another, crass, boring superstar who has failed to resist the temptations that money brings?
JFK was the great hero who would save the world but turned out to be just another, faithless, lying philanderer. Who can have any illusions since the days of Marilyn Monroe and the extinguished candle?
OBAMA PEACE PRIZE: The surreality of this obsession with over-sexed but hyper-boring celebrities is matched only by that involved in the award of the Nobel Peace Prize to Obama. What exactly has Obama actually DONE?
Crucially, there is practically NO change in the Middle East (except the major change for the good brought by the reviled George Bush and Tony Blair! the world is nothing if not full of irony); the USA still cravenly supports Israel, which CONTINUES to build and/or enlarge settlements, which denies any possibility of ever putting right some of the wrongs of the past (Palestinian exiles, appropriation of their land, stealing of their capital and so on – even the West Bank roadblocks are mostly still in place.)
Yet even in the pathetic there can be humour, as when he said that to bring peace the USA had to make war, or words to that effect.
Yes, he is of course right, but it was still funny. I wonder what Mother Theresa would have said? And Nelson Mandela? He had to sweat out decades in prison preaching non-violence to earn his NPP, while Obama only had to get elected to get his. Truly the triumph of hope over reality.
Perhaps hope is all there is left. I nearly said “we have left”, but then I realized that I haven’t actually got much myself.
Does international politics have to be this obtuse, to put it kindly?
Those that don’t follow the British Press closely may have missed the news that Peter Mandelson, the unelected Lord appointed to run Britain’s Trade and Industry Department, was guest at a shooting party with the son of Muammar Gaddhafi . Here’s how the Guardian Newspaper ran the start of the article:
The Spectator has reported that Peter Mandelson joined Colonel Muammar Gaddafi’s son at a country house shooting party. Photograph: Shaun Curry/AFP/Getty ImagesHe [Mandelson] talked of being “intensely relaxed” about the filthy rich, and no one could say that Lord Mandelson doesn’t like their company. After twice facing criticism for consorting with billionaires in Corfu, it emerged tonight that the business secretary joined Colonel Muammar Gaddafi‘s son at a country house shooting party.
Mandelson and Saif al-Islam al-Gaddafi were guests at Lord Rothschild’s Waddesdon Manor in Buckinghamshire, the Spectator said. The magazine reported that Cherie Blair was also in attendance, although neither she nor Mandelson are reported to have taken part in the shoot.
Let us be clear about this. The Gaddhafi regime is the antithesis of what the free world believes in, namely a dictatorship that has ruled by iron fist for decades and was indeed part of the axis of evil.
Of course, it suddenly became non-evil overnight, mostly because it gave up (or appeared to give up) trying to develop a nuclear bomb.
Leaving aside the fact that making a bomb does not per se make you evil, (unless we are to consider that the US, France, Britain, Russia, Israel are “evil”, too) the point is that the regime has not changed in its fundamentals since the old black and white days of George Bush.
So once again, the question arises, why are western leaders cosying up to these scum? This is a strong word, but do we or do we not agree that dictators are scum? Evil people who deny basic freedoms to their peoples?
Do you know any benevolent dictators? White-bearded philosophers out of the Plato/ Solomon mould? I sure don’t …..
Of course, these scum regimes are all in the UN, even though I had thought that all members had to sign up to the Universal Charter of Human Rights. Apparently not, however, another piece of humungous hypocrisy.
The Gaddhafi regime is the same one that is guilty of numerous terrorist offences, including Lockerbie (though there is distinct murkiness surrounding the whole saga) and in Britain the shooting by a Libyan Embassy staff member of Yvonne Fletcher, a British policewoman, for which nobody has been brought to justice even though the British police are said to know who was responsible.
However, leaving aside the question of how to deal with nasty dictatorships (and is joining shooting parties with the heir apparent really the right way?) I am fascinated by the apparent idiocy of Lord Mandelson in associating with these people.
Exactly which segment of the British population – let alone American – is he going to try to sell this to? America may not interest him overmuch, but one imagines that he wishes to prolong his career in British politics. If so, he has a funny way of going about it.
His image will take an enormous bashing, and Mandelson is, or used to be, totally focused on image, spin, PR and “the message”. What message does the thought of him jollying along with the son of the dictator of an evil regime convey to us? Has the spin guru of the British Labour Party lost his rudder?
Of course, there could be a hidden (or rather obvious) agenda. It could all be to do with sshhhhh ……MONEY. Is he therefore working tirelessly against his conscience (and knowing this will do him great personal damage) in the financial if not moral interests of the British people (who weren’t of course asked if they want their country cosying up to dictators) or could it be – oh Dear, are we being too cynical? – that he has a more personal interest in mind?
Does he deep down seek to become as rich as the man he helped to sell to the British public, Tony Blair himself, who incidentally is about to be embroiled in a potentially-devastating enquiry into the Iraq war?
And unfortunately, the news broke on the day after we discovered that Abdelbaset Ali al-Megrahi, found guilty of the Lockerbie bombing and released because he was dying, has in fact survived for three months with no apparent end in sight. Yes, only three months ago Gaddhafi bambino was helping to arrange the hero’s welcome that Megrahi received in Libya. As is well-known, Mandelson met Gaddhafi’s son one week before the alleged deal was done for Megrahi’s release, so they are old jet-set mates.
We believe in “freedom” and “democracy”, don’t we? We may have to share the planet with dictatorial scum, but do our representatives really have to grovel and sup with them?
Now, it is very noble of the Minister to try to help save the planet. However, his efforts do raise some questions.
The thing is, if it is essential to stop eating meat then shouldn’t the government put its money where its mouth is and DO something about it? Such as tax it? (usually the first instinct!) Or do they only do things that are electorally favourable? (this is a rhetorical question, by the way – feel free not to answer it …)
Or is this perhaps a long process of “educating the electorate”? Well, there are plenty who leave school hardly literate already, so he’s being a bit optimistic, isn’t he? And why start with poor, little Britain? There are tens if not hundreds of millions of our American buddies to convince ….
In our quaint British lingo this is known as “not singing from the same song-sheet”. And as for oil, I wish they would make up their minds once and for all; either we have to reduce its use or we don’t.
At the moment, all they seem to be doing is organising conferences (at vast carbon footprint) where they promise to reduce emissions. This is schizophrenia, isn’t it?
Re the British sermon, one wonders whether the noble minister is himself a vegetarian, and of course whether he is among the vast government contingent attending the international climate conference. And does he drive the car 50 metres to the baker’s on Sunday mornings?
Personally, I’d be prepared to give up meat if: A) I were convinced it would do any good and B) I thought that the great and good (and rich) would make a similar sacrifice.