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A Little Out of My Depth

Last night I took part in a lively and fascinating debate in London organised by Ecoconnect and hosted by BDO LLP .

I was invited to attend by a delightful man called Michael Ware.

Long time readers of this blog with better memories than me may find this description surprising, Michael and I had a little spat over an article he wrote and the response I posted on here back in 2013.

But that’s all in the past, I was invited to join a panel of genuinely distinguished guests.

Chaired by the urbane and charming Tom Heap who is the Rural Affairs Editor at the BBC, the panel was made up of Chris Huhne who was a Liberal Democrat MP and until fairly recently Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change.

Then there was the previously mentioned Michael Ware, next to him Matt Ridley who is a conservative member of the House of Lords and a highly intelligent and subtle critic of climate change policies, and indeed the very notion of climate change as a scientific reality.

Oh yes, and then there’s that old bloke off the telly, that numptie who drives around in electric cars and drones on about renewable energy.

So I was a little nervous, the audience was made up of people who work in the renewable energy sector, some journalists and a quite a large number of people who work in the investment trade.

Many of the topics were well above my pay grade, what should governments do about subsidies to the renewable energy sector, how do we address the issue of intelligent demand response, grid balancing, the increase in coal use since Germany steered away from nuclear.

All fascinating but for me, challenging stuff.

I’m not going to lie, I held my numptie flag high.

I couldn’t begin to argue with such intellectual luminaries as Matt Ridley, Michael Ware and Chris Huhne.

So I tried to argue the very fundamentals. The notion of genuinely long term planning, the notion that the longer we are reliant on fossil fuels, the more vulnerable we are to the vagaries of international crisis and market speculation. The very airy-fairy notion that as the human race, we should aim towards the end of burning stuff to quite the same degree we do now. The fact that the idea of climate change has spurred incredible technological innovation in the last 20 years. You know, the usual.

Chris Huhne’s grasp of the realities of renewables, the challenges they face both technological and political was encyclopedic, he could counter the rather childish claims of Matt Ridley with his own set of facts and figures.

I just got a bit shouty which is always self defeating.

However, it was the spin on climate change denial that Matt Ridley came out with that was fascinating. He’s not denying that increased man made CO2 is having an effect on the climate, just that ‘it might not be a bad thing and if we spent the money on protecting ourselves and adapting to this change then we can go on extracting and burning without a second thought.’

That isn’t a direct quote, but believe me that’s the gist.

Just for the record, Matt Ridley is without question a brilliant scientist, successful author of such books as The Rational Optimist, Genome: The Autobiography of a Species in 23 Chapters and many others. He’s a hereditary peer who went to Eton and Oxford.

Okay, and he was Chairman of Northern Rock at the time the bank that went seriously and disastrously pear shaped a few years ago but let’s brush over that.

He is more importantly an advisor to The Global Warming Policy Foundation that was set up by Nigella Lawson’s dad, Nigel.

Their shtick is that we are wasting money trying to mitigate the impacts we’ve been making for the past 150 years, these ideas are very carefully couched and can seem at a glance to be quite a reasonable response to the sometimes mildly hysterical warnings coming out of the IPCC.

However, the slightest nudge reveals their true colours, terms such as ‘ugly stupid wind turbines,’ ‘ridiculous ugly solar panels’ and ‘electric cars powered by coal.’

He used all those terms last night.

But best of all coming from someone with such a supremely privileged background as Matt Ridley, ‘poor people who have to pay more for their electricity to subsidies middle class people’s guilt who can afford electric cars and solar panels.’

No mention of the colossal profits his pals in the large corporate energy conglomerates make each day, no mention of the massive disparity between the wholesale price of electricity and the massively higher rates we pay to keep our lights on.

No suggestion that a change in the way we produce electricity could possibly, just maybe affect the entrenched position of supreme power his mates in the corporations, and their intimate relationship with the current government enjoy.

Of course, my main regret is that I didn’t have the intellectual capacity to deliver these slightly better thought out responses to his arrogant nonsense last night.

I was, I’m afraid to admit, just a slightly befuddled but possibly self aware old hippie having the occasional rant.

Reader Comments (9)

Its amazing how intelligent people can say such stupid things.

December 3, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterSurya

There is none so blind as a man paid not to see.

Yes, there are millions, billions even, of pounds to be extracted, both in coal and profits. Thus the status quo is maintained.

In other news, saw you at the Fringe some years ago. Very funny.

December 4, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterNKT

I enjoy laughing at people like Ridley and Ware. Despite all their lies, hypocracy and machinations I continue to run my wind powered electric car at a fraction of the cost of an ICE one, pay no tax to a corrupt government and nothing at all to the cynical fossil fuel industry.

Whatever their next crafty phrase they can still look over at me and see two fingers waving cheerfully.

December 4, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterJoe

China understands that the cost of Solar power will very shortly match that of Coal.
Thats why they are very busy putting Solar panels up as fast as they can.
Yes they are still burning loads of coal and will continue to do so for a long time yet.
They are however heading in the right direction unlike our useless Government who are doing there best to
kill off any renewables.
You where absolutely right when you said that we will have to use renewables in the end anyway.
The Sad thing is that the same people who now champion coal will be champions of Solar power.
but only when it makes more money.e
Climate change or no Climate change Renewables have to be the future.

December 4, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterDavid Hicks

I am an active advocate for renewables-battery storage-electric vehicles et al. I belong to the EF Schumacher school of thought that 'small is beautiful' and that globalisation is primarily and predominately a profit mechanism for faceless conglomerates with little consideration for the future. Most - but not all of them - are akin to the cuddly, trustworthy, benign old DJ we thought we knew so well... I have been in and around both the commercial and technical aspects of the auto industry for almost 3 decades and I think I can now discern the emerging picture, in regard to what could and should happen. I will resist spewing all that here and now, but I would cite a growing number of sources where the tipping point is emerging. Money is moving out of utilities and into renewables - especially PV. Here is a link to a recent UBS report that might be useful evidence to illustrate a few things:- https://docs.google.com/file/d/0B6MsVXLDEq8VRjBYYWFTNkZ0dEE/edit?pli=1
The sharing of best practice around the world is gathering pace and I am increasingly optimistic that 'a change is gonna come'...
You and I have met many times Robert - from the Modec 'Brighton to London Eco Rally', Tesla events, Formula E etc. - like mountaineering much is in the preparation before the ascent. The climb is about to begin.

December 8, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterRoger

the people running China definitely know what theyre doing unlike the people running our country..

December 9, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterKent

In today’s world, innovative technology allows us to make our way through the dense pace of modern life more easily. We strive for further comfort, efficiency and velocity as much as possible. One of these innovations is the electric car.

December 13, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterRomy

Lord Matt Ridley has an open cast coal mine on his Blagdon Estate in Northumberland.


December 17, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterJim Smith

Donate to the worlds greatest car company start up. Ev's being sold today are copies of the original plan Nunley Motor Crafts Ltd. Don't buy the junk ev's being sold. Donate to the worlds greatest car company today!


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