Saturday, 22 January 2022

Universal Basic Income News

The Welsh government is going to trial a UBI scheme. It seems a sensible scheme with reasonable payments:

Age range: Child 0–17 - Payment rate per week: £120.48
Age range: Adult aged 18–64 - Payment rate per week: £213.59
Age range: Adult aged 65 and over - Payment rate per week: £195.90

Nor has anyone popped up to provide me with a KCN, what is the world coming to? Perhaps all the Tories are distracted by Partygate.

Thursday, 20 January 2022

That's the beauty of LVT - reply to Doonhamer

Doonhamer left this comment on the subject of the Scottish government's auction of offhore wind turbine licences:

Yes, but what is the guaranteed price for all those expensive kWh?
And what do they get paid for NOT producing kWh when the wind is too strong?
And who pays for all the interconnecting copper?*
And who pays for the clean up when the rusting stumps and sea bottom concrete are no longer useful?*
And who pays for the fossil fuel back up when the wind speed is too low or too high?

No, I jest. I already know who will pay.

Let's assume the kWh price is 'too high' (which it almost certainly will be, to "kick start the Green Economy" and suchlike bullshit) and all the other costs are borne by consumers and taxpayers (who are largely the same people).

That means that the future profits will be correspondingly higher - but with a properly run auction (the English/Welsh method; not the Scottish method) that doesn't matter too much. Competing businesses will be willing to submit higher bids for the licences, so the government has more money available to pay all the costs and doesn't need to make consumers/taxpayers pay all over again via taxation.

The same general principle applies to all forms of Land Value Taxation. If the actions of government and society in general benefit particular areas or businesses, the beneficiaries pay the value back into the pot (which hopefully covers the direct costs with some left over to be spent on 'everybody') and those who don't benefit aren't forced to contribute via income tax etc.

* In an ideal world, the National Grid would still be state-owned, so it would have to bear these costs anyway, which it would more than recover by charging generators for transporting electricity. The generators should all be private, competing businesses. Fancy owning a power station? Raise some money, build one and hook it up to the Grid. The most efficient forms generators will win out, the inefficient ones go to the wall and society as a whole benefits.

Wednesday, 19 January 2022

An auction with a price cap is not an auction

This story is quite baffling, from Yahoo News/Reuters:

LONDON (Reuters) - BP, Shell and utility Iberdrola were among the winners of seabed rights to develop Scottish offshore wind projects, in an auction which raised nearly £700 million ($958 million) for public spending... Crown Estate Scotland, which manages the Scottish seabed, said on Monday that proceeds from the first such leasing deal in around a decade will go to the devolved Scottish government.

This is land value tax in action - the sea bed and the wind were created by nobody and thus belong to everybody and nobody, so the government is perfectly entitled to claim dibs and auction it off on behalf of 'everybody'. Good stuff so far, but...

Last year, seabed options around the coast of England, Wales and Northern Ireland were awarded at much higher prices at a leasing round held by the Crown Estate. However, Crown Estate Scotland capped the lease payments at £100,000 pounds per km2. As a result the payment for leases per GW were 94% lower than the average in the English auction, said analysts at Bernstein.

The English/Welsh auction last year raised £9 bn, but that article doesn't say how many GW or km2 were involved so I will accept the "94% lower" figure.

So it wasn't really an auction at all, it was a freebie for those who were awarded the rights. I hope that Scottish citizens kick up a stink about this and that heads roll, starting with Wee Krankie.

Tuesday, 18 January 2022

The Guardian's alternate reality

From The Guardian:

The climate crisis is damaging the health of foetuses, babies and infants across the world, six new studies have found.

Scientists discovered increased heat was linked to fast weight gain in babies, which increases the risk of obesity in later life. Higher temperatures were also linked to premature birth, which can have lifelong health effects, and to increased hospital admissions of young children.

Right. The 'cimate crisis' leads simultaneously to more premature babies, which tend to be underweight, and also faster weight gain/obesity?

The burning of fossil fuels drives the climate crisis but also causes air pollution and a new study in Denmark assessed the impact of dirty air on 10,000 couples trying to conceive naturally. It found that increases in particle pollution of a few units during a menstrual cycle led to a decrease in conception of about 8%.

A recent study in China also found that air pollution significantly increased the risk of infertility, but the average pollution level was more than five times higher than in the Danish study. “Air pollution [in Denmark] was low and almost entirely at levels deemed safe by the European Union,” said Wesselink. “Current standards may be insufficient to protect against adverse reproductive health effects.”

Of course pollution is unhealthy, nobody is disputing that. But it doesn't seem to have that much effect - the birth rate in Denmark is only ever so marginally higher than in China.

Wellenius said an important aspect of the studies was that they showed that vulnerable people often suffered the worst effects, for example people of colour and those on low incomes who did not have air conditioning or lived in areas with higher air pollution. “This is absolutely a health equity and justice issue,” he said.

Right. The number of babies being born seems to be inversely proportional to how urbanised or economically developed a country is (it's a fascinating topic in its own right); the world's overall birthrate has plummetted quite precipitously over the last century. The only continent where they are still getting on with it and popping out lots of babies is also the poorest, and probably the hottest and most polluted one - Africa. But according to the Guardian, the opposite is happening.

Friday, 14 January 2022

"Midget Gems change name after academic's campaign"

From the BBC:

Marks & Spencer has changed the name of its Midget Gems sweets to avoid misleading geology students after a campaign by a Liverpool academic.

Dr Erin Pritchard, a lecturer in geology at Liverpool Hope University, argued the word "gem" was highly misleading as the sweets are clearly not a precious or semi-precious stone, especially when cut and polished or engraved.

M&S has now rebranded the popular treats as Midget Jellies. A spokeswoman said the store was "committed to being a scientifically accurate retailer".

Monday, 10 January 2022

Daily Mail on the topic of "They own land, give them money!"

Janet Street-Porter in The Daily Mail, is on good form:

The largest landowner in Scotland is a Danish billionaire who is busy returning his holdings in the remote Highlands to wilderness areas where you can rent beautifully restored crofters cottages and lodges for luxury breaks.

Other huge rewilding fans are the Goldsmith millionaires, Ben and Zac, pals of Carrie Johnson, who is the PR for millionaire Damian Aspinall's Foundation in Kent.

Aspinall owns Howletts Zoo (he prefers the term 'nature park') where the public can pay £20 to gawp at gorillas and cheetahs who are being reared to eventually return to Africa. Ben Goldsmith is a rewilding-mad financier who owns 300 acres in the West Country, and wants to return his estate to a 'species-rich scrubby wood', planning to introduce polecats and glow worms...

Ben holds a non-executive role as an advisor at Defra, giving him a good chance to bend the ear of government with his rewilding crusade. To be fair he hasn't taken a salary – then again he doesn't need to. Older brother Zac, a charming man but a failed Tory MP, now sits in the House of Lords as Baron Goldsmith of Richmond Park, personally appointed by Boris, holding the environment brief.

Zac and Ben are old pals of the Prime Minister- they all attended Eton. Last autumn the Prime Minister borrowed the Goldsmith's family house in Spain for a short holiday.

But inevitably, she lapses into Home-Owner-Ism:

... shouldn't the government do more to protect farmland and forestry by refusing to allow unrestricted housing development on rural sites? Instead, every small town in England is becoming surrounded by building sites churning out identikit estates of noddyland housing on land which once produced food.

"Every small town"? "surrounded"? Really? As to "Noddlyland", most people live in fairly non-descript housing (my house is fugly, if truth be told), I don't see why that's a problem. And they get far more benefit from their home than they would have done growing a bit of fruit and veg on the plot. I'm still waiting for the first Nimby activist to buy and demolish housing and sell the land back to a farmer.

But hey, she's got the general idea.

Sunday, 9 January 2022

"Don't look up"

I had no intention of watching this film until I noticed that the Alarmists assume that this film is a parable about politicians and the media ignoring the 'Climate Crisis'.

Having misunderstood* the whole premise, The Guardian gave it two stars, describing it as a "shrill, desperately unfunny climate change satire"**.

Duly heartened, I watched it yesterday and I must say, it is gruesome and splendid. It's basically Dr Strangelove, except with a giant meteor instead of a nuclear war.

* It's quite possible that they are right and the film is supposed to be a parable for the 'Climate Crisis'. If so, the film is an epic fail on its own terms, but succeeds nonetheless because you can watch it ironically.

** For more top-drawer Guardian hand-wringing, read this article.

Friday, 7 January 2022

Wolf news

From the BBC:

Throughout the late 19th and early 20th centuries, a number of species disappeared from the Swiss Alps: the brown bear, the lynx and the wolf. The high mountain environment, so often regarded as pure and untouched, had been ravaged by one particular predator - humans.

Now all three species are back. The bears and the wolves returned naturally*, the lynx has been successfully reintroduced. But the dream of people and animals living harmoniously side by side has turned, for some alpine farming communities, into a bit of a nightmare.

No shit, Sherlock. Our ancestors had good reasons for wiping out wolves, it wasn't just a whim...

Just this month a sheep farmer close to the Swiss capital Bern woke to find seven of his 35 sheep dead, their throats ripped out by a wolf that had apparently jumped over the electric fence designed to protect the flock.

And inevitably...

Farmers are increasingly impatient. Last year they called a referendum demanding the law be changed to make it easier to hunt and kill problematic wolves. Swiss voters, most of whom live in cities, said no.

The French on the other hand seem to be taking a more robust approach. From The Daily Mail:

A zoo in southern France has been closed down temporarily by local authorities after a pack of wolves escaped from their enclosure and roamed around the site during visiting hours.

A total of nine wolves escaped from their enclosure last weekend at Trois Vallées Zoo in Montredon-Labessonnie, roughly 60 miles east of Toulouse. Four wolves were shot dead due to 'dangerous behaviour', before the five remaining animals were anaesthetised and returned to their enclosures by local officials who were called to the scene.

* The article says that wolves came up from Italy. Wiki says it has been strictly protected in Italy since the 1970s, so this is on them. The bears seem to have come from the east, via Austria.

Thursday, 6 January 2022

"Maureen Lipman attacks casting of Helen Mirren as former Israeli PM Golda Meir"

From The Guardian:

Maureen Lipman has criticised the casting of Helen Mirren as Golda Meir in a forthcoming film about the former Israeli prime minister, saying that the character’s ugliness is “integral”.

She added: “I’m sure [Mirren] will be marvellous, but it would be like Gal Gadot or Natalie Portman being cast as Angela Merkel. You just couldn’t even go there.”

They own land! Give them money!

From the BBC:

Farmers and landowners in England could be paid to turn large areas of land into nature reserves, or to restore floodplains, under new government agriculture subsidies.

When the UK was part of the EU, farmers were given grants based on how much land they farmed. Following Brexit, the government has pledged to pay based on how farmers care for the environment.

But environmental groups say the new plans lack detail and may not deliver. In what the government describes as "radical plans", landowners and farmers will be allowed to bid for funding to turn vast areas of land - between 500 and 5,000 hectares - over to wildlife restoration, carbon sequestration, or flood prevention projects.

The underlying insanity is that the government is in charge and decides what people can or cannot do. There is no need to pay people to obey the law, that's how it works. If they want to have more woodlands, discourage farming within XX yards of a waterway, particularly steep slopes or flood plains or wherever the environmental benefits outweigh the value of food which can be grown, they can just pass a law saying "Thou shalt not...".

I don't think that policing this is particularly difficult. They can fly helicopters over it and take pictures. If anything looks suspect, go and have a look on the ground.

The most insane idea is having a cut-off of 500 hectares (1,200 acres), which is considerably larger than the average UK farm, i.e. only the top fraction of a per cent of UK landowners can qualify. As far as rewilding goes, every acre counts. Wildlife in the UK is hefted and each animal's 'territory' is usually quite small. They're not like elephants or buffaloes which travel hundreds of miles depending on the season.

The Daily Mash says it best:

"Environment secretary George Eustice said: “The agricultural role of the British government is to funnel money to landowners, and I promise you that will not change.”