Friday 29 June 2018

New Zeitgeist: a Fusing of C@W Themes

A propos of our last two C@W posts - CU's on Mrs May having been led by her civil servants to the Magic NHS-Money Tree, and mine on the Swansea Lagoon decision, a neat coming-together of these two themes emerges in the columns and letters pages of the Telegraph and Welsh media passim.
Tory anger as clean energy project shelved (!)
... roars the DTel (paywall), and its corresondents provide the proof.  Welsh Tories were also dead keen on it too, in large numbers.  Yes, there are no end of self-identifying Tories who think the Lagoon to be deserving of public largesse.  What, at any price?  Electricity costing four or five times the going rate?  Apparently, yes.

It even looks like the old Tory logo ...
It would seem, then, that T.May is not merely lame and lazy, she's discovered that the Money Tree is popular across the board!  If she'd only realised this last week instead of pussy-footing around with just the NHS, the lagoon would have been saved.  Can the Defence-Money Tree be far away? 

A whole *moneytree* policy, no less!   (Sorry, must be the sun - pass me another drink.)

Nice weekends all round - 


Wednesday 27 June 2018

Swansea Tidal Lagoon. Oh Dear, Oh Dear

The axeing of the Swansea Tidal Lagoon.  It's ju-ust possible the goverment could have thought through the presentational aspects better - but by Heaven they got the decision right - eventually.

Cue hysterical tears across the greenie consituency, plus a large slice of the Welsh populace that had swallowed this inane concept.  Well now: all that's happened is that the government won't mandate electricity users to pay for it.  So perhaps someone else will.

Shouldn't laugh, but ...

No, I didn't mock that up, it's a genuine Just Giving page.  Misguided charitable gestures aside, there are quite a few mainstream punters who are already set to lose out on this one: the project has burned through tens of millions.  It was always highly speculative.  Mercifully it was an investment "suitable only for experienced investors" so there won't be many widows & orphans hurt in the crash.  Ironic, really, because the PR man running the whole show (the latest in his very eclectic run of odd entrepreneurial ventures, starting with film schemes) tried to get a bandwagon rolling, disingenuously called "Ours to Own".   As if somehow it belonged to the Welsh people.  Read their stuff and cringe.

Question is, do they have the stamina to hang on waiting for Saviour Corbyn to turn up?



High Tax Labour and High Tax Tories is a hell of a choice

This is the choice we are presented with in the Country at the moment. The current Conservative Government, devoid outside of Michael Gove, of any reforming zeal have transmogrified into New Labour - all the worst bits of it.

Unable to agree or solve the gordion knot of Brexit, their domestic agenda is a barren wasteland.

Into this policy-free zone jump our ever eager civil servants. All with bright ideas about how to make things better in each Government department. Every idea well thought out and researched by Love Island contestants. Of course, these policies cost money, they need more civil servants to enact and more importantly directors on higher pay scales to manage them. So the net impact is a large request for more money.

This is exactly how New Labour operated - well meaning lefties in the civil service dreaming up new ways to control our ways and shove 'improvements' onto the populace all at their expense. What jollies!

Only the strongest and best governments, who have their own agenda and Ministers with the peoples' interests at heart can avoid this trap. For Cameron, he had George Osborne and the recession to keep things tight, but that is now over.

Of course the real loons in the Labour party will be far worse. Rather than asking the Civil Service for ideas, they have their own crazed spending commitments - so crazy the Civil Service might think about trying to turn the volume down on some of them. Either way, the country will be bankrupt within 3 years of a Corbyn/McDonnell Government.

So what a choice, it is yet another reason to get rid of the dismal May as Prime Minister - for into the vacuum only bad things are projected.

Monday 25 June 2018

Trade War hots up

We can tell the talk of trade wars is having an effect, as the global stock markets are looking a little gloomy. Having said that, they always look gloomy in the summer and non-algo trading is a record lows in the markets.

But nonetheless, this trade barrier stuff by Trump is bad for the long-term global economy. Of course, there maybe some valid reasons to stop dumping of steel and agricultural products - but really this is what the WTO is for. Especially when it comes to European vs US trade. It is one thing saying China never complies so you need a more robust route, but the Western democracies always do.

For the UK, the importance of trade and the vision of the UK as able to once again straddle US and EU positions is becoming more attractive. Of course we would need a competent Government to play the trade politics which is a shame as there is none available, but at least the principle is there.

On balance though, the US going against the international norms of trade is bad for the UK as a trading nation and one that needs respect for global rules and norms. Without these there is a big downside for any business trying to complete cross-border deals.

So whilst the US issue highlights one of the weaknesses of the EU, it still poses questions as to how the UK could benefit and take advantage of any upsides.

Friday 22 June 2018

Gina Miller on the Stump

So, earlier this week I attended this meejah-related bash, after which the guest address was given by none other than Gina Miller, billed as a "philanthropist".

Now a very large % of the audience were in at least one, but mostly two (or even 3?) of the following categories (a) academics [albeit University of Westminster**];  (b) meejah-wallahs, particularly in broadcasting & political correspondents;  (c) metro-types.  So we're kinda expecting a bit of Remain-bias, yes?

Well.  Ms Miller got a respectful hearing; but the lengthy Q&A should have been less than encouraging for her.  Basically she got rock-all: a thorough, if genteel, going-over.

Naturally, this was all couched in reasoned terms.  But one has to suspect her attitude also doesn't help her cause, leading to a bit of ad hominem flak coming her way from people who otherwise might be quite inclined to give the benefit of the doubt.  Her demeanour, unsurprisingly, is one of being quite exceptionally pleased with herself.  She then lets fly with remarks like "people should never have been given a vote on Europe".  Apparently (someone told me afterwards) she is prone to turning up wearing a fur coat.++

All in all, she might well have gone away sadder and wiser.  But it seems unlikely.

Added to the jollity of the evening for me, anyway.


** in case anyone thinks this unfair, check the rankings (in the range 56th to 108th in five I quickly checked)
++ though not on a hot evening in June

Thursday 21 June 2018

We are all equal

Image result for england vs belgium

A story about female commentator, Vicki Sparks, at the World Cup has made the news.
This is a major event.
#MeToo, Post Weinstein, BBC salary gender bias scandal has now allowed a young lady to do the job of an old man.

And .. yeah. Fine. Didn't even notice. And both ITV and BBc have been very keen to ensure they have a female pundit on their pre/post match analysis.

But, what I have noticed, is the blanket insistence from the television producers and advertisers, that we are all now so gender integrated that no matter the number of x and y chromosome, we all love football.

In years gone by, when the football fest was on, channels such as C4 and ITV 2 would make a virtue out of the fact they did not have any soccer coverage. They'd promote all day soaps. Love Island style reality TV specials. Gordon Ramsey yelling at cake makers in the attic, got talent.
The programmers decided to target the female of the species, and offer some alternative to the extended kicking and diving coverage.

This time, that appears to have been deemed as too patronising. Too stereotypical. Too demeaning.
So ladies, watch the soccer.
Which, according to the advertisers, they are all enjoying.

Women leaping up in beer adverts to celebrate a goal. Checking their tablets for the latest scores during their busy, busy, busy lifestyle. Making sure they have enough data to stream the match.
The days of a mum seeing the nachos and Pringles being squashed into the sofa by a cheering, flag waving, leaping and dancing family group of men and boys, and thinking ' I must go to DFS' seem long gone.
Embracing Sexual Equality is the message of the World Cup.

A quick check of the usual Quango method of testing reality vs bubble, looking at the family and asking the office,  reveals not quite such a gender neutral picture as portrayed on TV.
Mrs Q, unable to believe there could be as many as four football matches a day, has retired to the bedroom. Miss Q has also joined her. Netflix and Now Tv are doing very well. Peaky Blinders and Brooklyn 99, is the new binge box sets for them. During the England game they watched 'Breakfast at Tiffany's.'
Myself and son have watched almost all of the games. True fans!

Office poll, of which 75% are female at BQi, shows much the same result as in previous years.
Men whoaren't interested have watched 'some highlights', at best.
Few of the women watched any soccer at all. The one who does, is a proper fan. Regular Millwall supporter. Home and Away. So no real surprise. And she said she's made sure to watch Corrie and Eastenders on catch-up afterwards.
A small percentage of women did watch the England game. But even they added, 'whilst on Facebook/amazon/Asos/Tui. '

I strongly suspect that this sort of stat is, despite the best efforts of those who,  for some reason, want to pretend men and women are identical in all respects, would be replicated across the UK. Men making up the vast bulk of all those viewing the round ball tournament. And obviously, only those interested already.

This doesn't let advertisers off here. Making the argument that only some males like football yet most adverts are targeted towards soccer fan males.
 The adverts are shown during a football match. So obviously they set out to target football fans. Betting ones being particularly masculine. Either heavy machinery -hard hats- Sarf larndon, ToolStation, macho. Or cool, reasoned, calculating, compulsory half say stubble, professional risk takers. But this isn't the same as deliberately including women being really excited by the sport, in those ads.

And, although its probably a hate crime to say it, I doubt anyone would be even mildly surprised to read that women, in general, just aren't very interested for themselves and if they possessed neither husbands, boyfriend or sons, would not be interested at all.

Anyone have a different experience?

Tuesday 19 June 2018

Who's in the Doghouse, Greenies?

Here are a couple of entertaining graphics, (courtesy of data from BP: that's millions of tonnes of CO2 along the bottom).

Well, whatdya know?  Those paragons of renewable energy, the EU and China ...

And hey, aren't we still in the EU - what's been our 'contribution' over the years?

At yet still, somehow, the Energiewende is the model we should all revere.   When will someone tell these simpering green idiots:  measure the wrong thing and you'll get the wrong results.  Measuring 'renewables' gets you a lot of bits of expensive kit labelled 'renewable' (and very big electricity bills).  It says very little about the outturn CO2.


Monday 18 June 2018

Death by Brexit - this time its real, part 94

Ok, so this is not what you think. Not that the discussion of Brexit might cause life-ending stress, although that is certainly what Dominic Grieve was saying at the weekend.

No, for today there is yet another Project Fear report out, this time from Oliver Wyman, saying no less than £1,000 will be taken from every UK family in the case of the hardest of hard Brexit's. Really that much!

Of course, if it not like they have form for this kind of thing. In 2016 Oliver Wyman managed this epic false flag, blaming Brexit for a 10% drop in its revenues and for 35,000 jobs being at risk.

On balance I reckon this is, as usual, very good for the Country. EVERYONE who voted to leave would have accepted there was going to be costs and minus' from doing so. Clearly leaving a frictionless single market would be challenging, but here even the most pro-EU hysteria can only generate this relatively small economic hit.

Maybe not death after all....

Friday 15 June 2018

Political World Cup of Brexit

And we are off in the Political World Cup of Brexit - there are many contenders and for this extra special edition there we have even allowed some Jonnie Foreigner entrants to make it feel like a true world event rather than those saddo US attempts:

So, who will lift the Brexit World Cup, delivering peace, harmony and all things nice to the People of Britain, the UK and the World in 2018?

Here are the runners and riders:

2-1 Barnier, M - Knows how to play the game better than any other participant, can utilise huge numbers of subsitutes and has unquestioning backing across the continent, dangerous opponent.

3-1 - May, T - Early Favourite, since appointment as team Captain asfter playing a lacklustre role on the losing side of the last World Remain Cup, she holds some of the cards. However, having no idea what to do with them the 764 round event may prove to complex for her.

5-1 Jonson, B - Captain of the last winning team, but stuck out on the Wing this time. Has the right ideas and support but lacks good finishing.

7-1 Corbyn, J - Newcomer, seems to struggle to understand rules and of limited mental game, popular and has lots of political stamina, may even win by default if other challenger fall away.

13/2 Putin, V - Dark horse, rumoured to have plenty of secret tactics and can play very dirty when required, lack of popularity may count against.

8-1 Junker, J - Struggles to make sense of things, attempts many two-footed tackles, renowned as a tough campaigner but very likely to get a red  (wine) card at the crucial moment.

12-1 - Farage, N- Cantered to the win last time out, now injured and withdrawn, considering a late entry but don't bet on it. An entry would push him to clear favourite status though.

14-1 Gove, M - Forgotten man since the last event, capable player in every position, lacks charisma and a team around him.

15-1 Merkel, A - Could be favourite due to immense strength and experience, now somewhat tired, however and a very unhappy team behind her, unlikely to last the distance.

More tips in the comments please....

Tuesday 12 June 2018

Mrs Hercules May

This picture from the PM's FB made me smile.

It is of herself plus several suits in the back of a Hercules military transport aircraft in Canada although, their not being strapped in, one can't tell whether it's before the beast was actually airborne, or after.

From the healthy pink tinge and placid looks on their faces, I'm guessing it hasn't taken off yet.  Because here's the thing.  Flying in the back of a Herc is, for the first-timer, a seriously unsettling experience for the skull and, errrr, the stomach.  So much so that it is usual to have a big plastic dustbin lashed down in the centre of the floor ... with a small circle of ashen-faced victims worshipping at its orifice.  When the Iron Lady journeyed thus to the Falklands it was in the comfort of a specially fitted-out, vibration-limiting portacabin in the hold.   It doesn't seem Mrs May gets the benefit of such considerate treatment - or maybe she has an even more robust constitution.  Respect!

And on the subject of riding in Hercs; for those foolhardy readers who supplicate for my military memoirs ...

*  *  *  *  *
Many moons ago I was in charge of a small section en route to a big field deployment.  My outfit were (we liked to think) among the better educated of the soldiery and we used to deploy in very small numbers, attached to bigger formations.  We were destined to fly by Herc, and so we had gone through the usual ritual: turn up at a large airfield in Wiltshire one evening:  bed down wearing full kit in a gigantic hangar arranged with row upon row of bunks resembling a nightmare version of the field hospital at Scutari:  roused at 4 a.m. for a hearty, greasy breakfast, and then out onto the pan.  Boarding the Herc - the five of us - we couldn't but notice it was just us and the RAF loadmasters in the back (capacity about 90 seated troops).  Guessing that they wouldn't be putting on this flight just for us, we enquired and were told we were headed for Glasgow where we would be picking up a company of Scottish infantry, Heaven help us.

The flight north, at low-ish altitude on a clear dark autumn morning, was magical: we were allowed to wander around in the back (avoiding the dustbin - I had flown in Hercs many times before and was by now inured, greasy breakfast and all) and gaze out of the bubble-glass observation windows.  There was a short turnaround delay at Glasgow and we were told to wait in the ordinary civilian departure lounge, where we made ourselves comfortable with coffees etc. 

Then, in came the jock infantry, and took their seats in serried unsmiling lines.  I became aware of a bristling figure marching towards me, so I stood up to greet whatever message was coming my way.

It was their Company Sergeant Major, who saluted me crisply and said, in accusatory tones:

Surr!  Yurr meyn!  They're ... READING NEWSPAPURRS !!   

One of the lessons of life is that it's just too easy, and not at all clever, to be sarcastic to children and irate NCOs.  And so, surpressing the obvious urge to reply, yes sarntmajor, we need to be able to read in our unit  -  I said we'd be sure to clear up after ourselves.

The dustbin was well-utilised on the next stage of the journey.  But not by the soft Sassenach newspaper-readers.


Monday 11 June 2018

Everything is going swimmingly

That Donald!...what a guy. At least he did not agree to the mad free giveaway to lefty causes. Sadly, the approach to Diplomacy leaves something to be desired - I did right Whoops, Apocalypse on Friday as a joke...turns out, not so much.

So now Trump is very well-prepared for his meeting with the little Rocket Man in Singapore. It is not hard to foresee some "Great Progress" being made and thereafter followed by a "Great Reverse" and not much being achieved after all. But who knows, maybe his advisors are trying to get him the learn, he is a clever man, perhaps he can.

Then we are onto our own Prime Minister facing down Brexit rebels in possibly the most over-hyped vote of all time. After all, the EU have already vetoed the proposition the UK Government is proposing, so the success of getting through Parliament will be short-lived indeed.

In fact I can sense the real Brexit denoument is soon to come, when the reality of no deal or pure Brexit In Name Only is in play and the Government tries to foist BINO on the Country - that will be a sight to behold as it simultaneously ruins half the Tory Party but also the Labour Party leadership!

Should be a fun week ahead all round.

Friday 8 June 2018

The G7 Agenda - Whoops, Apocalypse

Inclusive economic growth

Gender equality and women's empowerment

World peace and security

Jobs of the future

Climate change and oceans

I know I should not be amazed any more at the capture of the world agenda by a bunch of inconsequential and hand-wringing socialist wishes, but really, I am.

The G7 meeting this weekend comes on the back of one of the most fraught periods in international politics for some time. Russia has been actively attacking the West with covert operations for while, the Korean peninsular swings between war and peace at the whims of some fairly nutty leaders and the US has decided a trade war is the way forward to help its already strong economy.

Meanwhile, the world economy actually ticks along quite nicely, even Argentina is getting a deliverable and simply IMF bailout. The US economy is in great shape, as is China, Africa is growing fast and the sclerosis in Europe is still there by dormant for now thanks to monetary easing.

But politically, wow, the world is in a tough place. ISIS is gone but, as with Al-Qaeda's destruction, a new variant will soon pop to life - the Middle East's state of civil war continues. And this is in addition to the above.

So of course, inclusive economic growth - whatever this means and gender equality are the key issues in the world. Hoping for world peace too and jobs of the future  - what a load of twaddle. At least climate change and the oceans has some purpose in needing the big economies to agree what and how to deliver change.

Unsurprisingly, the agenda comes from Jeremy Corbyn's young acolyte, Justin Trudeau. Worryingly, this kind of agenda is designed to look and sound caring but will deliver nothing. Indeed, Trump et al won't even engage with it. Which will leave him crowing from the his moral high ground as nothing of note is achieved.

The end of the Western age beckons quickly if this is the route the leaders choose.

Tuesday 5 June 2018

Who do you think you are kidding, Mr Adviser?

“This morning the British Brexit delegation in Brussels handed the European negotiators a final note stating that, unless we heard from them by 11 o'clock, that they were prepared at once to grant the United Kingdom a satisfactory trade arrangement and accept our proposals for the Irish border, a state of trade war would exist between us.

I have to tell you now that no such undertaking has been received, and that consequently this country is now in a trade war with Germany”


The last, most fantastic piece of civil service hogwash was released a few days ago. When many thought Project Fear, an increasingly ineffective method of frightening voters to back a government decision, had already deployed its most doom-laden and apocalyptic visions of the terrors to come, the civil service Remain contingent, turned the dial up to eleven.
“In the second scenario, not even the worst, the port of Dover will collapse on day one. The supermarkets of Cornwall and Scotland will run out of food within a couple of days, and hospitals will run out of medicines within two weeks.”
So the Guardian was led to believe.
Now, even the Guardian was a bit embarrassed to be repeating such blatant falsehoods.  So much so it gave a voice to Brexiteers the next day. Without even hinting those Leavers might be wrong in their denunciations of the obviously unrealistic, exaggerated, hyperbolic amplifications of “possible” scenarios for “The No Deal report.”
So frightened are the mandarins who run the nation that such a terrible thing could even be countenanced, they were prepared to allow such blatant lies to be “leaked” to the press. To ensure the forthcoming vote on the Brexit amendments would be free from any talk of leaving without agreeing to remain in all but name.
That this was leaked deliberately to obtain the most negative possible press coverage for no deal is beyond doubt. That it was the civil service themselves, the Remain Cabinet Secretary cabal approving, the Remain ministers colluding, cannot be known for certain. But the hallmarks bear all the signs of the establishment at work.
The playbook says release a file with four or five possibilities scenarios. Ensure three are predicting a crisis the likes of which would make The Rapture more appealing. And the others with lots of doubt and gloomy language. Though nothing quite as fire and brimstone as the lead case study. The one the service knows full well the newspapers are going to run as a headline. 
How do we know the possible outcomes of medicines being non existent and food rationing being introduced immediately? 

Well, it’s simple.
We have a modicum of understanding of the world. We know, for instance, that even somewhere such as Syria, today in the midst of a civil war killing hundreds of thousands, people can still get food.
We know also that in Venezuela even after five years of disastrous, economy killing, thousand percent inflation, and catastrophic government mismanagement, medicine is still, just, available.

Soon after Cuba booted out the Batista government in the late 1950's, the USA imposed total sanctions on that Island. Cuba's trade with the USA was 65% of all their trade. And it ended virtually at once. Cuba is still there. They haven't all died.

The UK had its lowest ever level of recorded food self sufficiency in 1939. Just 33% of total consumed foodstuffs were grown or reared in the UK. And a few months later an economic blockade of U-boats and Luftwaffe aircraft began. Merchant shipping fled UK waters for fear of being sunk. A full scale European War was on so a huge rearmament project was undertaken at the expense of consumer goods. To make matters worse a military conscription was instituted. Severely limiting the availability of workers to make those military machines. Or grow the food that was suddenly, overnight, required. make a bad situation worse,  the 1939/1940 winter was the coldest one for 45 years.

AND..worse, the nation still had not recovered from the Great Depression. Was almost bankrupt, despite being a Great Power of Empire. There really was 'no money left.'
And the tiny amount that was left was required for fuel, food and weapons with nothing left over for anything else.

AND.. to make a terrible situation even more unbearable, as the British Empire and French Empire had failed to repay their war loans of 14-18, ALL goods that now needed to be purchased on an unimaginable scale from the New World, were required, by US Law, to be paid for in cash. And shipped in Empire and French empire ships that were currently being sunk by bomb, torpedo and mines.
The USSR would not supply the western democracies. They had done a deal with our enemies. There was no G8. There was a G5. China was an agricultural warlord run country. Already at war with one of the other great powers. And able to supply the UK with nothing at all. 
And not as today, able and willing if necessary to replace as much of the EU trade as we wish. if it couldn't get any worse, Southern Ireland refused to have anything to do with the UK. So only UK ports and airfields could be used for shipping. And any planes landing on those airfields arrived totally empty as cargo carrying aircraft had not yet the range to reach the UK from the USA.

AND..the port of Dover, that, remember, could apparently be shut down overnight by a no trade deal, was under air, artillery and missile attack from the fall of France in 1940 until the end of 1944.

AND .. UK transport was primarily rail and sea. Even when those ports and stations and rail junctions and electricity hubs were not being bombed with high explosives and incendiaries there were very lengthy load/unload times. There were no container ports. There were no containers. There were about to be fewer dockers and railway workers too. As men volunteered or were called up the hundred's of thousands.

AND ..AND..the Nazi war machine wasn't just bombing airfields and tank parks and dockyard cranes. It was bombing cities. 

Its odd that a nation that is going to run out of medicines just 14 days after a 'no deal' with only the Eu countries, managed to treat 1,000,000, additional civilian injuries between 1940 and 1944. That's 1,000,000 war related injuries. 87,000 additional life threatening injuries. On top of all the other injuries that were going on anyway in a very less health and safety at work conscious, health conscious, only semi-mechanised country. 
While those same civilian killing bombs {45,000 deaths in 1940-1941 alone}, killing doctors and nurses and landing on hospitals and cutting power and restricting ambulances etc. Without the benefits of modern medicines, vaccines, antibiotics and so on.
 AND ..there wasn't even an NHS bureaucracy to oversee all this mayhem! 
There wasn't even an NHS.

Somehow, within the memory of our grandparents, this country that is prophesied to fall to pieces within 48 hours of nothing more critical than a failure to agree something other than using existing world trade organisation rules, survived a total war that came with limited warning at at one of the most inopportune moments in our nation's history.
Not just survived that total, global war. But played a major role in winning it.

So, in that spirit, I call Total Bullshit on that most slanted of reports about this nation's capacity to withstand sudden change.

Monday 4 June 2018

Corbyn spots a winner, by accident

Thanks to Mr. Drew for stepping in last week whilst I was otherwise engaged!

I read with some hope his post of the end being signalled for the malign Swansea Tidal Lagoon Project and today the august FT has waded in also to confirm that this project will not get the go ahead.

On account of it being TWICE as expensive as the most expensive power station in the world that would be Hinkley C. And that it would required taxpayer subsidy for the full 40 years of operation.

It is quite some chutzpah. But, being the FT, they have decided to make cheap copy by allowing only interested parties to make comments and not bothering with any insight. The Welsh First Minister is rightly angry that Westminster subsidy has been denied to his own estate. The sponsors of the project are also dismayed that their tax funded party is not to go on for 40 year and so on. One would think from reading the article that a bad decision had been made rather than a good one.

But the best kicker is this tweet from the new Messiah:

"A Swansea tidal lagoon would harness Wales' natural resources, reduce reliance on fossil fuels and create thousands of jobs. Reports that the Tories are planning to reject this project shows their failure to make the right decisions for the economy and the future of our planet."

Given the lagoon will create less than 1000 jobs, be a poor economic decision and make no odds on the future of the planet, nor even reduce reliance on fossil fuels (it only works twice a day so the gap need to be filled, forever), the only true part of the tweet is that Tories are going to reject it.

This does prove though what many suspect. If in power, Corbyn would approve any old rubbish that was put in front of him that made politically-correct claims about the environment and some such. The energy companies will be in clover at this, they have whole departments of PR Spin-Merchants with long experience of Green-Washing projects. Of course they love a subsidy too! Corbyn may have found some new corporate sponsors at long last.

Sunday 3 June 2018

Good News Week?

We've been on the case of the ridiculous Swansea Tidal Lagoon since it got a mention in the Tory 2015 manifesto.  Since then, the only noteworthy developments have been (a) a really laughable 'official independent report' on tidal lagoons in 2017 by Charles Hendry, a classic old-school red-faced Tory buffer who was seriously suckered by the Swansea mob's slick PR (it's all they've got) into supporting the notion; and (b) the Welsh government being equally suckered into offering under-priced finance to get the thing off the ground.

The FT is now reporting that the lagoon will be given the long-overdue coup de grâce this coming week.

Praise be!  There was always the chance the Tories would be so desperate for Welsh votes, they'd just roll over and pay up the monstrously expensive subsidy being sought.  If the FT is right, we shall raise a glass to those in charge at BEIS.


Friday 1 June 2018

Financing Nukes: A Big Fork in the Road

First of all, apols for lack of posting but it really is the busy season for transactions just now ("*despite, errrr, Brex...*").

Meanwhile, back in never-neverland: the various parties lined up to satisfy the government's cravings for new nuclear power plants have pretty much reached consensus that even the dreadful Hinkley deal won't be good enough for them in future.  Doubtless the developers coordinate carefully behind the scenes; and from each of the individual bilateral negotiating tables comes the word that unless the government is prepared to take more project risk, no kind of CfD deal alone (even of the one-sided EDF-Hinkley kind, see plentiful C@W comment on the Hinkley tag below) will suffice to get the show on the road.   The actors concerned in the respective red corners are of course EDF itself, considering Sizewell C (its next putative UK nuke project) and various Japanese and Korean players.  In the blue corner is always the utterly useless HMG, whose negotiating prowess was amply illustrated by the Hinkley debacle (not to mention Bre...), and whose leader, Mrs May, has the resolve of an indecisive blob of jelly.

Partly this situation comes about because the developers have spotted a soft touch, of course.  But it's not to be ruled out that a genuine issue lurks, namely that the whole history of nukes (and ever-tightening nuclear safety regulation) may fairly imply that commercial enterprises will never be the right kind of entity to undertake their development.  What's needed, this logic concludes, is an investor with the lowest-possible cost of capital, i.e. an AA-or-above government.  Also, guaranteeing the revenue stream alone (à la Hinkley, although the redacted parts of that deal guarantee even more) is not enough.  In particular, it's development risk the commercial players don't fancy.

Folowing this to its conclusion, some (and not just the vested interests, nor even those who believe all power plants should be state-owned) are now arguing that while the market model is ideal for optimising the day-to-day running of an energy network, it doesn't work for actually building the system.  It's not too hard to agree this in respect of the 'natural monopoly' aspects of the infrastructure (and almost everyone does).  But many of us felt we had reached a workable and indeed proven model for leaving the market to build new generating plant.   

Even we free-marketeers would need to accept a couple of qualifiers.   The trivial one is that the capital costs of renewables will need to fall yet further before anyone will routinely build them without subsidy.  True; but even such purely political programmes are greatly improved by auctioning the subsidies, making the whole thing at least semi-privatised, semi-market based, semi-efficient. 

The second major qualifier is this.  The longest-forward period that capacity markets operate tends to be 4 years, and likewise the tenor of forwards in commodities.  That should suffice to get (e.g.) gas-fired plants off the ground in good order on a market basis: construction takes 2-3 years and there are always inventories of shovel-ready projects; and companies can genuinely be expected to take their own views on commodity prices.

This still means that big, essentially one-off projects like nukes of >1 MW with lead-times that are way more than 4 years, are highly implausible candidates to be built on a purely commercial basis.  maybe one day small modular nukes will fit the 4-year bill, but not yetawhile.  So if, for maybe even compelling reasons of long-term planning and environmental politics, someone wants nukes, the best you'll get in the direction of competitive market dynamics is to auction the subsidies you are willing to give.

But when someone says, that alone doesn't cater adequately for development / construction risk, which must be borne at least in part by nation-states, they are steering us towards the traditional disaster-zone of governments needing to procure projects on a cost-plus basis.  Has there ever been a truly successful multi-billion, cost-plus, government procurement exercise in energy, defence, IT ..? 

But: the May government, like its Cameron / Brown / Blair predecessors, seems hell-bent on new nukes - so we are fairly likely to see a new model contract coming into existence in the coming months, to tackle some interesting and, I believe, genuine 'practical academic issues' around finance and risk, (as well as different types of practicalities on the commercial and strategic fronts).  I'm not sure any of us are particularly confident of the May adminstration's capabilities in any of these regards.  Time will tell; and it might be interesting.     

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Of course, all this entirely begs the question of whether anyone should build nukes...