Muddling through I

British energy policy: a well-intentioned muddle without a coherent target scenario

This side of the water, British energy policy offers a nice reminder that while incompetence, corruption and fanaticism are bound to deliver bad policy, the converse does not hold: rational and well-intentioned policymakers can get into a mess if they lack method, vision and courage.

Gordon Brown made a major speech on climate change in November. It had more than its share of Big Statements:

The climate change crisis is the product of many generations, but overcoming it must be the great project of this generation.

– and characteristically Gordonian microdetails on standby consumption of consumer appliances. (The average daily summer temperature in Edinburgh does not exceed 18°C so Scottish TVs left on overnight are just providing needed space heating. Standby consumption is the sort of issue a genuine leader leaves to underlings.) The good point was that he rejected a ploy by mandarins aligned with the nuclear energy lobby to sabotage the EU’s ambitious targets for renewables. But it fell pretty flat. The media and Parliament soon had more exciting trivia to deal with.

There was besides nothing really surprising in the speech.

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The economics of Neolithic ham

Spanish bellota ham, a profitable neolithic technology.

Many Spanish households keep a whole cured ham, taken out when they need a few slices for a tapa or a sandwich. We have joined them, and a shoulder (paleta) of Jabugo ham sits on a worktop in the utility room, its black cloven hoof sticking out of the tea-towel that is all we need to protect it for several months.

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The ECB shows its teeth

Trichet tipped to win his fight with Sarkozy over the ECB’s independence.

The European Central Bank (ECB) chose last week to release a letter it sent to the Portuguese EU presidency objecting to an arcane change in the ECB’s status smuggled into the draft EU reform treaty at the Berlin summit (FT story here). It doesn’t want to be listed as one of the “EU institutions”, as these will be required to cooperate towards a long list of common goals, no longer including market competition. What if anything this means is unclear, but it’s plainly part of a French plot to subject the ECB to political meddling by EU finance ministers. The ECB said politely a month ago that it was against any such changes; now the gloves are off.

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Attack of the Killer Tomatoes II

Angela Merkel’s EU Reform Treaty – a triumph for bafflegab

A sample from the conclusions of the recent EU summit:

In addition, until 31 March 2017, if members of the Council representing at least 75% of the population or at least 75% of the number of Member States necessary to constitute a blocking minority as provided in Article [I-25(2)] indicate their opposition to the Council adopting an act by a qualified majority, the mechanism provided for in the draft Decision contained in Declaration nº 5 annexed to the Final Act of the 2004 IGC [shall apply]. As from 1 April 2017, the same mechanism will apply, the relevant percentages being, respectively, at least 55% of the population or at least 55% of the number of Member States necessary to constitute a blocking minority as provided in Article [I-25(2)].

There’s 15 pages more of Annex 1 on similar lines. I especially like:

In III-275(3) only: “The specific procedure provided in the second and third subparagraphs shall not apply to acts which constitute a development of the Schengen acquis.”

Your eyes glaze over? You hadn’t realized that “acquis”, without italics, is a word of the English language as spoken in Brussels? That’s the point.

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