Saturday, August 02, 2008

Public service oddities: Shall I compare thee to a Water Framework Directive? Edition

The House of Commons Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee released a report (PDF) in 2002-03 on the Water Framework Directive. Clearly water policy bores them a little, on page five they've introduced the Directive with some inspiring quotes:

"Among these treasures of our land is water - fast becoming our most valuable, most prized, most critical resource."

President Dwight D. Eisenhower

"Thousands have lived without love, not one without water."

W. H. Auden
('First Things First', 1957)

"Glendower: I can call spirits from the vasty deep.
Hotspur: Why, so can I, or so can an man; but will they come when you do call for them?"

William Shakespeare
(Henry IV Pt. 1 Act III Scene I)

That burst of enthusiasm out of the way they get back to EU water safety law.

Friday, August 01, 2008

Don't impose a windfall tax on energy companies

I've written a post for the TPA blog making the case against a windfall tax. Chris Dillow does the same, from a more left wing perspective, over at his blog, Stumbling and Mumbling. A windfall tax would hurt the incentive to invest in really important energy infrastructure and is an awful, awful idea.

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Crime and cognitive biases

In the course of my day at work I go through a lot of statistics for one reason or another. This one surprised me, from the police recorded crime statistics (XLS):



In 2007/08 the police recorded 1,899 incidents of rape of a child under the age of 13.

That's far higher than I would have expected, the high hundreds at most. At work, I asked around and everyone else was equally shocked. The number is particularly high when you bear in mind that it is recorded crime and, as we are talking about a sexual offence, almost certainly a severe underestimate.

Now, a common theory for why the public see crime as such a serious issue is that they overestimate its prevalence because of sensationalist news reporting. We see the reports and assume they represent a broader pattern, fall victim to the distortions of the availability heuristic.

If an entire office of people with plenty of exposure to the right-wing press could make the opposite error about a crime that is clearly, in a horrible way, sensational doesn't that raise some broader questions about that hypothesis?


I've written a post on energywatch and energy prices for CentreRight.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

First, do no harm

In recent months there has been a lot of discussion about how the Government might help people facing high energy prices. The unions, politicians and various campaigners have called for a crackdown on energy companies they accuse of profiteering.

Yesterday, the Renewable Energy foundation revealed that the Government's own environmental policies are a major component of the price of energy:

  • Climate change policies make up around 14% of the average domestic electricity bill and 3% of the average domestic gas bill.

  • Climate change policies also make up 21% of the average business electricity bill and 4% of the average business gas bill (i).

  • By 2020 the burden of green policies will have risen to 18% of the average domestic electricity bill and 55% of the average business electricity bill(ii).

  • Despite this massive cost the regulations are projected to achieve very little. The Renewables Obligation is expected to cut emissions by just 1.6% at an incredible cost of £400 per tonne of carbon emissions saved.

    Most of these climate change policies, from the Renewables Obligation to the European Union Emissions Trading Scheme, have been introduced since the current Government came to power. They have been major drivers of the rises in energy prices. While politicians single out energy companies for criticism they keep quiet about their own complicity in rising prices.

    With Ofgem confident that our energy market is reasonably competitive isn't hounding electricity companies just a crude attempt to displace popular resentment of high prices? If the Government were really committed to bringing down prices it could easily do so by scrapping some of these ineffective climate change regulations.

    Cross-posted from the TaxPayers' Alliance blog.

    Tuesday, July 29, 2008

    Unframed Window

    Charles Laurence, a friend from LSE, has set up a new blog called Unframed Window. He's a smart guy and the blog has an easy, thoughtful tone so far. Well worth a read.

    One of his first posts is about the quality of Obama's oratory. Charles isn't impressed. I also felt a bit let down when I first watched an Obama speech at length and then saw his faltering performances in Q & As.

    It might well be a difference in the style each nation expects. Obama is a superb example of the preacher-like style of American political speech. That style is forged as a way to deliver an uninterrupted speech heavy on moral content. By contrast, Britons are used to political rhetoric forged in active debate whether in parliament and the courts or in university sparring. That makes British political speech lighter footed and sharper but often less weighty.

    Monday, July 28, 2008

    An article on the politics of environmentalism at The American

    An article I wrote with Chris Pope, from the American Enterprise Institute, is up at The American (along with a fun graphic). Here's an excerpt:

    "With less than two years remaining until the next general election, Britain’s Conservative Party has surged to an historic 22-point opinion-poll lead over the incumbent Labour Party. This turnabout has followed an energetic campaign by the Tory leader, David Cameron, to wrench the party out of its ideological comfort zone and overhaul its public image. Cameron has indeed handled many issues deftly. However, his initial attempt to spark a bidding war over climate alarmism backfired enormously, and it should serve as a warning to other Western political parties that are trying to burnish their green credentials."

    Sunday, July 27, 2008

    AA Gill on Burn Up

    My review was focussed on the battiness of the actual message. AA Gill, in the Times, takes on the shoddy quality of the writing. Good stuff:

    "Imagine writing this: “It is my belief we are standing on the very edge of history.” Having written it, what would a normal, sensitive, moderately intelligent person do? Well, 99% of us wouldpush the delete button with a faint shiver or tear up the piece of paper so that the young and impressionable couldn’t read it. We understand that it’s utter bilge, but, you see, that’s why we’re not scriptwriters. It takes a very special person to write that sentence and think: “Yes, high five, nice job, really profound! What shall I do next?”