French take Leave of their Senses

The Lower House of the French Parliament has just passed a law on the Energy Transition to Green Growth, which is going to the Senate for rubber stamping before being passed into law under a special accelerated procedure. You can read the current state of the law in the three tomes devoted to the deliberations of the special commission which has been examining the law, tome one of which is at

http://www.assemblee-nationale.fr/14/pdf/rapports/r2230-tI.pdf

but I warn you, it’s over 700 pages.

The press dutifully reported the key proposals, the most interesting ones being an “energy cheque” for people on modest incomes that they could use to pay their fuel bills or save towards loft insulation, and the banning of non-re-usable plastic bags and plastic picnic plates. The ministress* objected to the last amendment, on the grounds that the poor might want to wash them and use them again, (let them eat off Sèvres, I say) but she was overruled.

Less widely reported were the proposals for actually dealing with climate change. These included

– reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 40% by 2030, and by 75% by 2050

– reducing the share of nuclear in the production of electricity from 75% to 50% by 2025

– increasing the proportion of renewables in the energy mix to 23% in 2020, and 32% in 2030

– reducing the country’s total energy consumption by 50% by 2050.

– reducing the use of fossil fuels by 30% by 2030.

Yes, you read that right. (Actually, you probably didn’t. You probably skipped over it – I would have.) In 2050 the French will be using half as much energy as they do now – by law.

One can imagine several ways this might be done, e.g.:

– thirty five years of continuous economic depression

– a radical reduction in the birth rate à la China or Italy, coupled with a complete ban on immigration à la Front National

– banning paper napkins, non-recyclable sanitary towels, air conditioning, central heating, and air travel (Air France has already made a stab at that).

The French government thinks this can be done by giving people tax breaks to insulate their houses and exempting employers from paying social security contributions on the money they disburse to compensate their workers for coming to work on a bike.

No, really.

I’ver been combing through the French press over the past 24 hours looking for some reaction – a savage Voltairean barb, or a loud Rabelaisian fart in the direction of these numbskulls – nothing.

I had a glance at the 770 page Tome I referenced above, and discovered a few gems which have escaped the attention of the entire Parisian press corps, for instance:

– The ministress* of Energy and Ecology Ségolène Royal, who announced loudly recently that there would be no fracking for gas while she was ministress*, announced quietly to the parliamentary commission that there would be fracking for petrol. What would happen if the prospectors struck gas instead of, or together with, liquid she didn’t say. Presumably they would just ignore it, like a bad smell. (We may yet get that Rabelaisian riposte).

– She began her address to the Commission by insisting on the seriousness of the challenge of climate change, pointing out that there were currently more refugees from climate change than from wars (is she counting British holidaymakers on the Côte d’Azur?)

– Six million recharging terminals for electric vehicles are to be installed. France is the main European market for electric vehicles, with 200,000 (including buses, roadsweeping trucks etc) but still, thirty terminals for each vehicle seems a bit much. Wouldn’t it be cheaper to have each electric vehicle followed round by a lorry full of batteries?

– One member of the commission successfully proposed an amendment that gaseous emanations from farm animals should not be counted in the country’s greenhouse gas emissions. IPCC be warned. France has a different definition of what constitutes a gas from the rest of the world. (O Rabelais, where art thou?).

I could go on wading through this tripe, but what’s the point?

I thought I might have found a critical point of view, someone who dared question the “pensée unique” when I found

http://www.lemonde.fr/economie/article/2014/10/07/transition-energetique-fantasmes-francais-realite-allemande_4502139_3234.html

French fantasy and German reality” – at last! Is there someone in the French press willing to compare the fantasy embodied in the French intention to replace their efficient nuclear energy with wind and solar with the reality in Germany, where ruinously expensive solar is being dropped in favour of coal in its most polluting form of cheap lignite?

No.

In France one finds the same beliefs about the German energy transition: a cost running into the trillions, companies relocating abroad, risks of general black-outs, inevitable importation of electricity from nuclear, an inevitable return to coal, with the huge rise in emissions that that entails. But the Energiewende is by no means doomed to failure. It’s a complex energy paradigm shift which is not without problems, but which has to be judged in the long term.”

And so on. Certainly, energy is more expensive in Germany, but they use less of it. (Yeah, they take cold showers, and they don’t eat their Sauerkraut and Bratwurst on plastic plates, I’ll bet)

The means for a true energy transition exist, at once a motor for competitivity for enterpises, of growth for the country, and of construction for the Franco-German relationship and for Europe. And France possesses numerous trump cards for meeting these challenges. It must assume fully its predominant role, both nationally and at the level of the European community, and cease to project its own worries on Germany.”

Apologies for the quality of the above translation, but I refuse to spend more time on translating this drivel, which apparently represents the opinion of France’s most respected newspaper. Though the article isn’t written by a le Monde journalist, but by Stephen Boucher (Directeur de programme, European Climate Foundation) and Dimitri Pescia (Agora Energiewende)

By the sacred paps of bounteous Gaia, not more bleeding climate foundations. They’re breeding like rabbits, and they’re employing Europe’s entire population of sentient polyglots, each one with their own website, each one devoted to producing on-line articles noting the latest reports from all the others.

While the élite minds of the US are devoting their energies to becoming billionaires, and the élites of China and India are preparing to explore Mars, the best minds of the European establishment are forming foundations devoted to persuading each other of the necessity of conducting an energy transition which nobody wants, nobody’s voted for, and nobody’s got the foggiest idea how or why it might come into being.

I’ll leave an analysis of who European Climate Foundation and Agora Energiewende are and why, and who pays their salaries to another time. It’s not difficult – just a question of lots of obsessive clicking.

Mary Robinson is there. And John Ashton. He’s the bloke who, when he lectures trade unionists in Newcastle on climate change, mentions his grandfather who was a miner, and when he lectures businessmen in Beijing on climate change, mentions his grandfather who helped the communist rebellion in Shanghai in the thirties – and delivers his speech in Chinese. (How many grandfathers has this supercilious smartarse fucker got?)

I saw the best minds of my generation destroyed by madness, starving hysterical naked, dragging themselves through the negro streets at dawn looking for an angry fix…”

Allen Ginsberg said that. He wasn’t maybe the greatest poet of the twentieth century, but he meant something to a certain generation who thought there was more to life than the consumer society and the dreary routine of nine-to-five office work, who rejected capitalism and yearned for a more honest relationship between man and his environment.

He didn’t live to see the best minds of his generation on their knees before – not Mammon – but the bountiful foundations that Mammon finances – forming an ever widening circle, their fingers on their I-phones and their heads up each other’s arses, blindly scratching statistics in the dust demonstrating that we must, we must, we must …

Do what?

Well, forego plastic picnic plates, for starters. That’s obvious. 97% of scientists say so. For the rest, it all depends on you.

I’ll come back to the European Climate Foundation and Agora Energiewende when I’ve calmed down a bit.

*Ministress”:

A Member of Parliament was recently censured for repeatedly addressing a female member of the Government as “Madame le ministre” instead of “Madame la ministre”. He was undoubtedly doing it to annoy, but the dictionaries and tradition are on his side, which didn’t stop him from being fined a week’s salary. If they can do that to an elected member of the people, free and sovereign, what might they not do to a foreigner who happens to live in France? Hence I shall be addressing Mme Segolène Royal as “the ministress” instead of “the barmy old cow”.

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12 Responses to French take Leave of their Senses

  1. j ferguson says:

    There will always be Uruguay.

  2. John Shade says:

    ‘By the sacred paps of bounteous Gaia, not more bleeding climate foundations. They’re breeding like rabbits, and they’re employing Europe’s entire population of sentient polyglots, each one with their own website, each one devoted to producing on-line articles noting the latest reports from all the others.’

    A post full of joie de vivre. Thank you for taking so much l’urine from this dismal news. The blind destructiveness of ideologues intent on being fashionable is a sight to see. Are they trying to upstage our own dear, in the financial sense, Climate Change Act?

  3. ” not more bleeding climate foundations. ”

    You probably recall that Ben Pile recently made this point, giving a long list of these self-righteous organisations and ridiculing the idea that there was a need for a new one, the Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit, led by BBC dropout Richard Black (and part funded by your friends the European Climate Foundation).

    http://www.climate-resistance.org/2014/08/does-the-uk-need-another-climate-unit.html

  4. Pingback: Out of the Mouths of Malnourished Babes and Sucklings | Geoffchambers's Blog

  5. j ferguson says:

    Geoff,

    Although a reduction of national energy consumption of 50% sounds absurd, is it? I wouldn’t find it beyond possibility to reduce energy consumption at Chez Ferguson by something like this and that is without beginning to get into the inefficiencies of our legacy energy consuming and energy delivery systems here in the States.

    If we give up on the windmill foolishness and concentrate on evolving our present systems, we might be able to make a pretty good dent in that number while provoking the development and implementation industries supporting the techniques required. (Forgive me this pale green verbiage)

  6. j ferguson
    You’re forgiven. No doubt you’re right that there are savings to be made. (The last I heard you were living on a boat in Florida, so perhaps your energy requirements are not typical).
    The French law, as far as I can see, contains little to encourage sensible energy savings, but some rather sinister compulsory measures, like forcing people to install insulation every time they renovate a room in their house. (How do you do that? Send detector vans round listening for the sound of an electric drill?) Private homes which use more than a set number of Kw per square metre will also be obliged to install insulation. Those would be older poorer habitations in the cold north – not villas on the Côte d’Azur.
    But domestic heating is a tiny part of the total energy consumption. Agriculture will be exempt from any restraints, as it always is. Electric cars are completely impractical for the kind of long distance road travel the French like. The excellent fast train service is expensive, and the network is practically saturated. Like hydroelectric power, which provides the huge bulk of France’s renewable energy, it just can’t be expanded much more.
    I pointed some of this out, by the way, in a comment at
    http://www.mediapart.fr/journal/france/131014/transition-energetique-beaucoup-de-bruit-pour-peu-de-choses?onglet=commentaires#comment-5444017
    on an article by Mediapart’s very green environmental correspondent, but where there were many very sensible sceptic and pro-nuclear comments. Sceptics exist in France, but they have no voice in the media.

  7. j ferguson says:

    Hi Geoff,
    Maybe one of your readers is a Netherlander who can regale us with how the government there links all of their data so as to detect people who are running unlicensed hair-dressing salons out of their homes – they use too much water. I can see the detection means for un-insulated reconstructions would be to balance sales of particular construction materials to an individual against his purchase of insulation. The opportunities for oppression abound.

    I wonder if the many Netherlanders who’ve settled in Provence are in any way similar to the fellow who moved to Guadacanal in 1939 to escape the fuss.

  8. j ferguson
    Uraguay? A Dutchman in Guadacanal? You’ve lost me, I’m ,afraid. I think we’re of the same generation, but of different cultures.

  9. j ferguson says:

    The Guadalcanal story is about a guy who was fed up with conflict in the world, mindless politics, the decline of civiliz(s)ation, etc. Remember this was 1939. He moved to Guadalcanal, soon became a guest of the Japanese, and later an ‘interested observer’ in the excitement in 1944 when the US undertook to restore the place to its previous calm.

    Uruguay seems a place unlikely to adopt any of the measures au courant in UK and France. It is under serious consideration as a place to live out there years by friends in NewYork. It has a stable government, economy, is beautiful – Punta del Este, and reportedly intelligently managed. Wine is good, too.

    A year or so past, there was a long discussion at E.M. Smith’s blog among several Dutchmen now living in Provence who had fled the Netherlands because of serious intrusions on their lives by a government newly empowered by relational databases. Exposure to this problem could accompany a stop for speeding (caught in one of their insidious traps – speed limit reduced from 100k to 40k over a hill without any geographic or apparent social reason – and with a temporary sign.) What happens next is they check all of their data of every kind in which your name appears and you get hauled in for questioning because your home uses an unusual amount of metered water – which of course you are paying for. There were other examples. I wouldn’t last a week in a place like that.

    hope this clarifies my earlier words.

  10. j ferguson
    Thanks. I knew about Uruguay being a nice place, since my brother-in-law’s girlfriend has a house there. (She likes to live on boats too).I wondered if there was anything about them not having extradition treaties with the European Union, since that would certainly interest a number of French politicians..
    THe Dutch thing is interesting too. The information available here about WW2 ,is that vastly more Dutch Jews died than French, not because the Dutch were more anti-semitic, but simplybecause of their efficiency in data collection.
    In France it’s illegal to collect information on race, so no assertions about race and criminality can ever be officially verified, or denied.
    When my son was robbed in a bus,,the police showed him two photo albums, a big one with photos of guys with arab names, and a slimmer one with guys with French or Spanish names. Freedom is a term whose meaning changes according to your perspective.I assert my absolute freedom to be who I am. The state asserts its right to know who I am. Thez resulting dispute is politics.

  11. Dodgy Geezer says:

    …Less widely reported were the proposals for actually dealing with climate change. These included… reducing the share of nuclear in the production of electricity from 75% to 50% by 2025…

    Er… can anyone tell me how this helps to deal with ‘climate change’?
    Assuming for the purposes of the argument that the climate is a finely balanced phenomenon and that human-generated CO2 will tip us all into Amageddon (neither of which I personally believe), I would have thought that nuclear would be essential.

    You may dislike nuclear for other religious reasons, but no one can possibly say that it threatens climate change…

  12. j ferguson says:

    well, nuclear does produce heat – although not alone in this.

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