Dark Continent

Last summer, Cape Town suffered severe water shortages. While the global media ran interference blaming global warming, an article in Nature magazine – hardly a hotbed of climate change denialism – explained why:

Since the 1980s, South Africa’s major conurbations have used systems models to guide their water management. These models, run by the national government, are considered world-class. They map links between river basins, reservoirs and transmission channels and use historical hydrological data to predict probable stream flows. Those are then matched to projections of demand to assess how much storage is needed. The models support real-time operations of the water network as well as planning for development. Crucially, they allow planners to assess risks of supply failures to different categories of users and evaluate the effectiveness of responses such as restrictions.

For two decades, policymakers heeded the models. They guided managers, for example, on when and where to tap sources and build reservoirs to enable the Western Cape Water Supply System (WCWSS) to meet rising demand from urban and industrial growth.

But dam building stalled in the 2000s, when local environmentalists campaigned to switch the focus to water conservation and management of demand. Such opposition delayed the completion of the Berg River Dam by six years. Eventually finished in 2009, the dam helped to keep the taps running in Cape Town this summer.

South Africa is repeating what’s happened across much of the English-speaking world and mainland Europe: contemporary politicians inherit a perfectly adequate system which has worked for decades and, through the application of ignorance, fanaticism, and arrogance in equal measures, proceed to f*ck it up completely. Unfortunately for South Africa, they seem to be taking things to the next level:

Blackouts in South Africa intensified to a maximum level on Saturday after the state power utility said it lost additional generation, including electricity imports from Mozambique.

The power cuts, first implemented over the weekend to replenish water and diesel designed for surplus generation, were raised to so-called Stage 4, removing 4,000 megawatts from the grid, Eskom Holdings SOC Ltd. said in a statement on Saturday. It marked a third consecutive day of outages rotated throughout Africa’s most industrialized nation.

Eskom’s operational and financial woes stem from years of mismanagement and massive cost overruns on two new coal-fired power stations that should have been completed in 2015. The utility is seen as one of the biggest risks to the country’s economy.

It is tempting to blame this on an African government that’s reverting to type; they can certainly ask their brothers up in Nigeria for advice on living in a place with unreliable, intermittent electricity.

However, if this has been brought about by affirmative action policies, general incompetence of the political class, and religious-like commitment to environmental dogma foisted on them by supranational bodies and Geneva-based NGOs, how is this different to what’s going on in the developed world? The governments of France, Germany, the UK, and Australia have all decided to throw their electricity generating capacity into serious jeopardy by embracing windmills and closing nuclear plants, all for the purpose of impressing their peers at jamborees in resort towns. How long before supposedly developed countries are suffering brown-outs, or watching other parts of their infrastructure collapse? Italy can’t even keep its bridges from falling down, and I don’t think there’s a government anywhere which is capable of building anything without years of delays and quadrupling of costs. HS2, anyone? And it’s not as if South Africa is the only country in the world where people are appointed to senior positions based on skin-colour or other characteristics unrelated to experience, skills, and competence. Western organisations not only do this, they openly brag about it on their websites and give each other trophies for their efforts.

It used to be said that South Africa was a third-world country with first-world infrastructure. If they can’t even manage to keep the lights on, I think it’s fair to say that label is now obsolete. But what’s more concerning is the number of first-world countries which seem determined to have third-world infrastructure.


Deindustrial Revolution

Yesterday Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez unveiled the Green New Deal, her plan to transform America by combining technologies not yet invented with those of Iron Age man, leaving out everything in the middle. If implemented it will make the USA look like the Soviet Union, only run by the sort of people who shop in organic food stores and collect their own stools to spread on the rhubarb.

The FAQ which accompanied the main document reads as though a child has written it:

Totally overhaul transportation by massively expanding electric vehicle manufacturing, build charging stations everywhere, build out highspeed rail at a scale where air travel stops becoming necessary, create affordable public transit available to all, with goal to replace every combustion-engine vehicle.

Charging stations everywhere, including on top of Mount Rainer. It also intends to:

transition off of nuclear and all fossil fuels as soon as possible.

A free handsaw will be issued to every household for the purpose of gathering firewood.

we think we can ramp up renewable manufacturing and power production, retrofit every building in America

Every building? That’s in the order of 120 million. Although to be fair it’s a 10-year plan, so that’s only 230,000 buildings a week. Where the materials for this will come from is anyone’s guess. And who will pay for it? Pfffffft:

At the end of the day, this is an investment in our economy that should grow our wealth as a nation, so the question isn’t how will we pay for it, but what will we do with our new shared prosperity.

Better order your yacht now folks, before the manufacturers get too busy. And you’ll have plenty of time to enjoy it because the plan provides:

Economic security for all who are unable or unwilling to work.

Count me in!

This plan is probably what you’d expect from Ocasio-Cortez, who has burst onto the political scene with more energy and zeal than the rest of Congress put together but unburdened with intelligence or a sense of how the world functions outside of Queens. Some are saying this shifts the Overton window, but these ideas have been commonplace in the corridors of academia and in environmentalist manifestos for years; nobody’s reading anything new here. What’s happening is more akin to a lunatic Green party member suddenly becoming kingmaker in one of those dysfunctional coalition systems they use on the continent, and all the attention switches to them. AOC doesn’t hold a vital swing vote, but she’s holding everyone’s attention and many are eager to capitalise on her popularity:

This came hot on the heels of:

The Democrat party is out of control, lurching leftwards past the likes of Bernie Sanders to where the buses don’t run, stoked by hotheads like AOC. Once again, the parallels between what’s happening to them and what Momentum did to the British Labour party are obvious. I’ve said it several times recently, but AOC is turning into a real problem for the Democrats. She’s stealing all their airtime and using it to promote swivel-eyed lunacy which has the party name stamped right on it. When she pauses for breath the cameras switch to the scarcely more sane Kamala Harris, or Elizabeth Warren who is fast being chucked under the bus but still insists she did nothing wrong by calling herself a red Indian. What the Democrats are screaming out for is someone who is halfway smart and not nuts, and they’re coming up short. This is telling:

Nancy Pelosi isn’t all that impressed. Asked about the “Green New Deal” in an interview with Politico on Wednesday, Pelosi dropped this amazing bit of shade on it:
“It will be one of several or maybe many suggestions that we receive. The green dream, or whatever they call it, nobody knows what it is, but they’re for it, right?”

Nancy Pelosi may be several things, but she’s not stupid and she’s been around a long time. She knows exactly how this sort of plan will go down outside New York city and coastal California, not to mention those who underwrite American politics. You don’t get to be worth $29m on a $223k lawmaker’s salary by annoying corporate America and promoting insane socialist policies. But I have a feeling her biggest challenge is going to be putting a leash on the likes of AOC and Harris, and somehow finding somebody who isn’t a lunatic or an idiot to represent the party going forward. Any idea who that might be?



Yesterday I attended my weekly lecture on Global Economics, which is a subject I quite enjoy. Towards the end we were shown a truncated version of this excellent video on the plight of Briggs & Stratton workers whose factory in Missouri had been closed and production moved to China. It was hard not to feel sorry for these Americans, many of whom were over 50, who’d suddenly found their jobs yanked from beneath them with no alternative. The sight of them walking around a jobs fair in a daze was pitiful.

When the video finished I raised my paw in the air (as I am fond of doing) to point out that there was a large elephant wandering around the room that nobody’s noticed. Whereas it is true that low wages are the main driving force for relocating a factory to China, US policies have made manufacturing artificially high, namely the ever-increasing environmental legislation. I said that the only western leader who acknowledges that environmental regulations impose a cost on developed-world industries is Trump. Nobody else even mentions it, and for most politicians they are an unalloyed good with no downsides, and the more of them the better.

This caused some umming and ahing to the effect that we need to “do something” about the environment and that Trump pulling out of the Paris Agreement is not the solution. This may be true and it may be not, but it’s beside the point. It is one thing to bicker about solutions, but quite another to deny the problem exists. So I asked why it was only Trump who was prepared to even acknowledge that environmental regulations heap costs on developed-world industries and contribute the very unemployment we’re getting weepy about in the video. I didn’t get an answer, but I knew it already.

Everyone in an MBA class in a business school in Geneva is by definition white collar and rich. Nobody who enters that building except the cleaners has their livelihood threatened by environmental regulations, and almost 100% are willing to vote for them. Everyone wants to live around clean air and water, and most middle and upper middle classes these days are engaged in a weird post-Christianity Earth-worship cult, sort of like pagans only with designer handbags, smartphones, and a penchant for air travel. They say they’re willing to pay more for things, but this is a luxury rich folk can afford especially when the cost comes in the form of slightly higher prices rather than permanent unemployment.

The more the urban-dwelling elites vote for policies which clobber everyone else, the worse the situation is going to get. One would have thought Trump’s election, Brexit, and the gilets jaunes movement would have woken them up, but it appears they live in a wholly separate world. I’ve said for a long time Trump was a warning shot across the bows of western civilisation, and that the world is lucky that it was him who stumbled on the unguarded palace gates and sat on the throne. Alas, those gates remain wide open. It used to be that politicians would bicker over problems and sell different solutions to the population. Nowadays, massive, elephant-in-the-room problems affecting millions of people are being utterly ignored by the ruling elites who busy themselves selling solutions to problems which are either trivial or don’t exist.

The reason populism is on the rise is because it has become a trivially easy route to power; you don’t even have to offer solutions, just pointing a finger at the problem is enough. And if that problem – immigration, unemployment, crime – affects you and your family, you’ll vote for someone who acknowledges the problem exists over someone who doesn’t, regardless of the feasibility of his or her solutions and with scant concern for his character and broader manifesto. People like to issue stern warnings about how Hitler rose to power by inventing a problem and convincing the masses he was the one to fix it. Many of the same people believe to avoid a repeat of history we must ignore real problems, and call anyone who draws attention to them Hitler.

This won’t end well.


I told you so, carrier bag edition

I can’t honestly say that this story surprises me:

Supermarkets are selling customers billions of 10p ‘bags for life’ which contain twice as much plastic as 5p single-use bags, it was reported last night.

British retailers handed out a total of 1.18billion of them last year – at a cost of around 10p a bag. In the 12 months to the end of June, Tesco distributed 430million bags for life – the highest number for a supermarket.

What did they think would happen when they banned single-use plastic bags? That people would cart groceries home in their pockets? 1.18 billion multi-use shopping bags is one hell of a lot of plastic. Back in August 2016 when I first got the carrier bag bee in my bonnet, I asked:

Why is it assumed that a reduction in plastic bag use makes the world a better place? … Does using stronger, reusable plastic bags offer an overall improvement?  If so, where are the studies to back it up?

A few months back, reader David Bishop alerted me to this Danish study (.pdf) into the environmental effects of different types of carrier bags. It looked into how some bags can be reused for a secondary purpose, e.g. for lining a bin, and at both the “climate change” impact and “other environmental impacts” of each type of bag. For ease of understanding, the traditional polythene carrier bag is called LDPE in this study, and the “bags for life” most supermarkets dish out are called PET (see pages 25-27). The killer info is in Table IV of the executive summary (pages 17-18) which shows how many times each type of bag must be reused to have an environmental benefit over the carrier bags our benighted governments banned:

What this tells us is that the PET “bags for life” – of which, let’s remember, 1.18 billion were sold in one year alone following the carrier bag ban – must be reused 35 times before they’re better overall for the environment. Amusingly, the recycled PET bags are worse for the environment, and need to be reused 84 times. Very few people, particularly the dim middle classes who campaign for environmental legislation, understand that recycling is an industrial process like any other only with different inputs. What the table above shows is we’re better off using PET bags made from fresh polyester than from recycled materials. (Incidentally, Tim Worstall has been banging on about how nobody considers the overall resource inputs when calling for everything to be recycled for years.)

So how many people use their PET bags 84 times? I’m not sure, but this table is interesting, no?

Look at the difference in CO2 emissions for the production of normal LDPE carrier bags and the PET bags so loved by greenies. Of course, someone will start going on about plastic in the ocean and a turtle offshore Bora Bora with a biro up its bum, but aren’t CO2 emissions supposed to be the greatest threat to mankind ever?

And look at the other types of bags. Paper bags, which have sprouted up in the vegetable sections in supermarkets all over France, need to be reused 43 times before they’re better for the environment than polythene bags. Who the hell reuses a paper bag once, let alone 43 times?  This is probably due to the fact that to make paper bags you first need a forest, and that takes up land. This is what makes the cotton bags which SJW’s adore so damaging: you’d need to use it 7,100 times before its environmental benefits are felt. If it’s made from organic cotton, it needs to be reused 20,000 times. That’s a lot of shopping. The report explains why (pages 69-70):

The environmental impacts connected to the production of the organic cotton bag (COTorg) were considerably higher than those of the conventional cotton bag (COT). This is due to the fact that organic cotton production does not involve the use of synthetic chemicals such as fertilizers and pesticides, which lowers the yield of the cultivation. Eventually, more resources and land are required to produce the same amount of cotton than in conventional cotton cultivation processes.

Again, this is something informed people already knew. Not so the hippies who swan around with their cotton shopping bags wrecking the environment, and wrecking it even more if they’ve opted for an organic cotton shopping bag.

But we should remember, none of this legislation is rational. It is part of a quasi-religious culture whereby the wealthy middle classes (particularly women) need to signal their virtue having quit going to church a generation back. Therefore, the results don’t actually matter. Back in 2016 I wrote this:

For if we accept the use of plastic in itself is bad, why carrier bags?  Should we ban Bic biros and force everyone to use pencils?

And indeed, the EU has recently approved a ban on single-use plastics. This will have two effects. Firstly, substitutes will be found which, as we’ve seen with shopping bags, are worse for the environment than the thing they’ve banned. For instance, cotton buds will soon be made from wood, which means more forests, more land clearances, and more lumber mills. Is this better or worse than using plastic? Does anyone even care? Secondly, it will become apparent that there were very good reasons related to hygiene and health why single-use plastics have been adopted for certain applications. It is unlikely the EU mandarins have identified all these and excluded them from the legislation.

I started my one-man blogging campaign against the carrier bag ban by invoking Chesterton’s fence. I believe my doing so has was justified, but the arrogant fools who rule us and those who support them have yet to learn a damned thing.


Incentives matter, part 23,567

This is a fascinating line from an academic paper I’m reading:

Stanwick (2001) found a strong association between CEO compensation and a firm’s reputation for being environmentally progressive.

This can be read several ways, but one interpretation is that CEOs sign up to green initiatives because it justifies their higher pay, or reduces criticism of it. Which would explain one hell of a lot, frankly.


Charitable propaganda

In September I speculated that the plethora of news articles concerning ill-treatment of Rohingyas in Myanmar and Uighurs in China were the result of lobbying efforts by pro-Muslim groups awash with zakat money. I’d like to see a study done on how many “news” items are simply campaign propaganda, paid for by political organisations masquerading as charities with too much money. Take this CNN report, for example:

Beef isn’t good for the planet. But you probably knew that already.
You might know beef is responsible for 41% of livestock greenhouse gas emissions, and that livestock accounts for 14.5% of total global emissions. If you didn’t, you’ve probably heard about the methane — a greenhouse gas 25 times more potent that carbon dioxide — that cattle produce from both ends.

This is one of several reports I’ve seen over the past few weeks claiming eating meat is bad for the environment and everyone needs to drastically cut down their meat consumption if the planet is to be saved. These stories appear on major news sites littered with question-begging statements coupled with wholesale acceptance of the most extreme climate change predictions. So who’s putting this garbage on newsroom desks?

Firstly, it must be understood that environmental campaigning, vegetarianism, and veganism are western, rich people’s hobbies. I read somewhere that Greenpeace gets the bulk of its donations from Germans; apparently they’re sanctimonious bores who like to tell others what how to live. Who knew? The last decade has seen the number of environmental groups multiply, probably as a result of government money being hosed at anyone who sings from the climate change hymnsheet, but also because societies – particularly those in northern Europe, north America, and Canada – have got richer. People – particularly those in mid-career with disposable income and no children – are more inclined to donate money to environmental and green charities, allowing them to lecture others on sustainability before jetting off to the Bahamas on holiday. Hell, some of them might even believe they’re helping.

What is certain is these environmental groups are awash with money. One proof of this is how much they spend on salaries and marketing campaigns: it runs into the millions. Only they’ve come under a lot of pressure recently to spend more on charitable activities, which to you or I means going outside and getting your hands dirty to help those in need. But the wealthy social science graduates who run these organisations aren’t going to do that; so instead they spend the money on “awareness” campaigns which can just about pass muster as “frontline services”. They’ll call up their friends in media and ask them to run some nonsense about how everyone must go vegan to save the planet, and they’re only too happy to oblige. It’s cheap and it’s free for starters, and they don’t even have to leave the building.

As I said, I’d love to see a study done on how many supposed news reports are simply media campaigns put out by charities. But what I’d like to see even more is the government carry out a thorough investigation into these alleged charities, strip them of their charitable status, and start treating them as political organisations. It’s high time the public started treating them that way, too.


An untypical protest


France’s PM has announced a six-month suspension of a fuel tax rise which has led to weeks of violent protests.

Edouard Philippe said that people’s anger must be heard, and the measures would not be applied until there had been proper debate with those affected.

Good work, comrades.

The difficulty for Emmanuel Macron is that this is exactly the kind of capitulation to the street that he has vowed to stop. There will be no change of direction, he repeats to all who will hear, because that would only store up worse problems for the future.

The thing is – and I defy you to show me a British newspaper that makes this distinction – the French public were ready to accept reforms to the labour laws of the sort that traditionally bring the unions onto the streets. In fact, Macron did push through such reforms and the unions did strike, and the public refused to back the strikers. I remember all the complaining about the disruption to SNCF services when I was working in Paris, but the majority knew major reforms are necessary. What they clearly don’t support is their foppish president sacrificing the living standards of ordinary people on the altar of environmental hysteria. Most commentators will say this was a typical French uprising against reform and modernisation – plus ça change – but it wasn’t.

Macron had all the goodwill he could have wished for from a population who wanted to change; instead he chose to hit them hardest on a vanity project. That should be the story here.



This morning I came across this tweet:

Catherine Noone is an Irish senator and practicing solicitor. This tweet is a good example of something I find myself talking a lot about these days: hubris.

Tesco are an outfit at the end of an extraordinarily complex, technologically advanced, and finely-tuned supply chain which enables farm produce to be freshly available on supermarket shelves in city centres day after day with no interruptions. Looked at in isolation, the entire operation is nothing short of miraculous, an achievement of human endeavour which rivals the space programme.

But the metropolitan middle classes with social science, humanities, and law degrees think they’ve found something wrong with it. For some reason, the global experts in packaging, transport, storage, and retail operating on razor-thin margins have decided to use a few million tonnes of unnecessary plastic. Perhaps it was a decision made late on a Friday night when they all wanted to go to the pub, and never got around to revisiting it? Silly people! They spend millions on computer controlled warehouses, yet they can’t even get their packaging right.

I have the advantage over most of those wringing their hands over food packaging of having actually worked on a large vegetable farm, including a few days in the packing plant. The farm would come to life at about 5 or 6am, everyone would be in the fields picking by 7am, and by 1 or 2pm the first produce would be coming into the yard, some of which would go into the packing plant. Between 2 and 5pm several large lorries from the major supermarkets would pull in, get loaded up, and be off to the distribution centres from where the produce would be sent to all four corners of the UK, where it would appear on shelves at 7am the next morning. One thing I noticed, being a part-time forklift driver, was that clever packaging was essential for rapid loading and unloading. Everything needed to be packed in such a way it could be stacked on a pallet and put on a lorry with a forklift. We used to being loose veg in from the fields in small lorries or with a tractor and trailer, and it was a right pain. This is why we had a packing plant.

If you want just-in-time logistics, you need to pack things properly. Also, as mentioned in this post by someone who knows what they’re talking about, the plastic serves a vital function in keeping the produce fresh. I am sure it is also used to keep moisture and creepy-crawlies out in some instances. Now I don’t know the optimum packing methods to achieve all this, but I think it’s a reasonable assumption that those who have a billion dollars worth of skin in the game have worked it out. The idea that vegetable supply companies use “excess” packaging is so ludicrous only the seriously dim and neo-religious could believe it. And of course, if they removed the packaging there would be uproar about food waste. That campaigns against this imaginary problem have such support is indicative of several things, not least the increasing divide between those who work white-collar jobs in air-conditioned offices in large cities and those who actually make the country function.

In any conversation on this topic, you’ll inevitably get someone – usually a woman with a good salary, nice handbag, and plenty of shoes – smugly state that they buy their vegetables loose from the local organic shop and “they’re perfectly all right”. Which is true, but you’re not going to be able to feed cities of between 2 and 5 million people via small shops filled with bent, muddy, and cracked vegetables chucked in cardboard boxes. Well you could, but not while maintaining the standards of living everyone now demands. These people are the equivalent of the apocryphal American kids who don’t know milk comes from cows.

One of the paradoxes of the population becoming more educated is they seem to know less. The middle classes are increasingly backing trendy causes – gender equality, renewable energy, fuel taxes, carrier bag bans – without having the slightest idea how the world functions beyond their bubble. They’ve never been on a farm, toured a factory, walked through the turbine hall of a working power station, seen the spaghetti-like piping in a refinery, watched a giant crane lift something into place, or stood on a platform built in the middle of a hostile sea to provide the life-blood their society depends on. They don’t know how things are done and who does them. All they know is they’re doing it wrong and they know best. Like I said: hubris.

This won’t end well.


Enough is enough

It’s not surprising people are turning to violence:

What began as protests over President Macron’s fuel tax has transformed into general anger at high living costs.

Mr Macron says his fuel policies are needed to combat global warming.

So global warming is an existential threat, is it? Okay, but:

France is heavily dependent on nuclear power, which Mr Macron pledged to reduce to 50% of the national energy mix by 2035 by closing 14 of the country’s 58 reactors.

If global warming is really going to kill us all within decades, the problem of nuclear waste disposal and fear of accidents would seem rather small indeed. That politicians are closing nuclear power stations is proof that even they don’t believe global warming is an existential threat, or even a serious one.

That is on top of the closure of all four of France’s remaining coal-fired power plants and investment of billions of euros into renewable energy.

And that’s what this is all about: elites in government making life more expensive for the ordinary citizen so they can virtue-signal to other elites and the wealthy, middle-class idiots who support them. Like I said, no wonder people are turning violent. I’m amazed it’s taken this long.


Signalled virtue fails to save whale

So how did this happen, then?

A dead sperm whale that washed ashore in a national park in Indonesia had nearly 6kg (13 lbs) of plastic waste in its stomach, park officials say.

Items found included 115 drinking cups, four plastic bottles, 25 plastic bags and two flip-flops.

The carcass of the 9.5m (31ft) mammal was found in waters near Kapota Island in the Wakatobi National Park late on Monday.

I thought carrier bags had been banned from French supermarkets and bars in London no longer provide drinking straws, so how come we have a dead whale in Indonesia? Ah yeah:

Five Asian nations – China, Indonesia, the Philippines, Vietnam and Thailand – account for up to 60% of the plastic waste that ends up in oceans, according to a 2015 report by environmental campaigner Ocean Conservancy and the McKinsey Center for Business and Environment.


The European Parliament has voted for a complete ban on a range of single-use plastics across the union in a bid to stop pollution of the oceans.

MEPs backed a ban on plastic cutlery and plates, cotton buds, straws, drink-stirrers and balloon sticks.

Next up: hosepipe bans in Surrey to prevent drought in Ethiopia.