True driving force in energy debate is cash
10 June 2009
In the week of the first ever Green Britain Day, I was fortunate enough to hear an exchange which captured, in an admittedly microcosmic way, the realities behind the energy debate. At a planning committee in Norfolk, one of two energy companies hoping to put up groups of wind turbines near Diss was applying for permission to erect a 60-metre wind-measuring mast. A councillor pointed out to the team of TCI Renewables that another firm, Enertrag Ltd, had recently erected a mast nearby. Was it not possible for the two firms to share the data?
It was not. The companies were in competition with one another, the TCI man told the committee; for that reason, it would be impossible for them to co-operate.
Suddenly the profound cynicism behind all the warm words which both firms regularly emit – climate change, sustainability, the future of our planet and so on – was revealed. The reality was simpler and uglier. In their scramble to develop the countryside and grab public subsidies, the two energy companies preferred to double their carbon footprint, each erecting a giant mast, rather than risking losing a commercial advantage. The project was all about profit.
It is a worthwhile lesson to bear in mind on this, Green Britain Day: money is at the heart of the debate about future energy. Indeed, a row between two larger energy companies about this very day of conservation and awareness points up how idiotic and childish commercial competition can be.
Green Britain Day is the brainchild of EDF Energy, the firm which is one of the main sponsors of the London Olympics. The idea is not a bad one: a day in the year when people can get advice about recycling, or growing vegetables, when schools are involved in a “do something green campaign”. Sport celebrities will be involved. There is a logo for the day: a green union jack.
EDF have released the PR line that seems to have become obligatory on these occasions. As an energy company, it has a responsibility to be at the heart of a solution to climate change. Green Britain Day is “an ongoing opportunity for Britain to lead the world in the fight against climate change”.
Yet, strangely, other energy companies are less keen on this initiative. One, in fact, is spitting mad. Ecotricity, whose founder Dale Vincent also likes to present himself as an eco-saint has accused its rival of trying to “green itself up”. What terrible sin has EDF committed? It stole Ecotricity’s idea of a green union jack.
On his blog, an irate Vincent draws attention to the fact that EDF is French and that it includes nuclear power in its energy portfolio. He has seen the words “EDF CLIMATE CRIMINALS” sprayed across one of the green union jacks, and had found the graffiti so apt his design department had mocked it up for his website.
Here is another useful glimpse into what is really going on during this debate. Behind the energy companies’ slick and relentless promotion of their own green ethics, there is a vicious, competitive scramble for cash. On Green Britain Day, no sector is less qualified to preach virtue and selflessness to the rest of us than the hard-eyed, profit-hungry firms who stand to gain most from climate change.
Morley archives reveal Gielgud’s lust for life
The image of the bug-eyed punk icon Iggy Pop has taken a few knocks recently. First Iggy, who likes to show his wiry torso onstage, appeared in TV commercials for a motor insurance company. Now, with the release of Sheridan Morley’s papers, it emerges that he was a favourite crush of Sir John Gielgud. “He takes his clothes off,” the great actor excitedly told Dame Judi Dench. “I’ve got a couple of nice pics.”
Morley was a critic, biographer and director who had a talent for winkling out embarrassing information about revered public figures. Vanessa Redgrave insisted on a pre-interview contract forbidding mention of politics or her family, and was rewarded by Morley’s suggestion to her agent of another agreement, the first clause of which was that “she stops being boring, fatuous and pretentious”.
With letters from Gore Vidal (enraged), Sir Alec Guinness (world-weary), the Duchess of York (self-pitying) and many others, the Morley archive, now at Kingston University, sounds like a treasure trove of bitchiness and gossip. A waspish little volume for the Christmas market must surely be on its way.
Dog of a day in the Osbourne household
An interesting little essay could be written about sentimentality, fame and attitudes towards animals as exemplified by the family of the slack-jawed former wild man of rock, Ozzy Osbourne.
As a lead singer, Ozzy’s unique selling point was biting the heads off live doves and bats. He confessed at one point in his career that he had once shot his family’s 17 cats. Now that the Osbournes are professional celebrities, he collects dogs. A regular feature of the reality show series set in their home was the sight of some luckless, under-exercised mutt defecating miserably on the carpet.
The family had 18 dogs, when last counted – or perhaps that should be 17. While they were watching Michael Jackson’s memorial on television, Little Bit, a Pomeranian, was eaten by a coyote, its yelps drowned out by the sound of the TV. Ozzy is “devastated – she was his other woman”, his daughter Kelly has twittered.
First Michael Jackson. Now Little Bit. How much grief can one family stand?