Tim Worstall

Dear Mr. Bliss


You might recall Monbiot earlier in the week. And his mention of Jim Bliss\’ calculations about the amount of CO2 stored and the amount emitted by BP\’s Peterhead scheme.

You know, the one which strips the CO2 from natural gas, burns the hydrogen, pumps the CO2 into an oil reservoir and thus pumps up more oil?

The calculations which I said I didn\’t trust. Although, I have to admit, I got the reason I didn\’t trust them entirely wrong. Mea Culpa.

In 2005 BP proposed to build a new gas-fired power station at Peterhead, capture the carbon dioxide produced and use it for enhanced oil recovery in the Miller field below the North Sea; this innovative project could have been up and running in 2009. Monbiot is wrong to suggest that the plan would have led to more carbon emissions than savings: between 1.8m and 2m tonnes of carbon dioxide would be injected each year over 20 years, producing an additional 40m-60m barrels of oil. Taking the higher numbers, 40m tonnes of carbon dioxide remains underground, while burning the oil produces approximately 20m tonnes; twice as much carbon dioxide is stored than emitted.

The abandonment of the Miller scheme due to lack of government support means a loss of $6bn in oil revenues and a missed opportunity to take a lead in reducing carbon emissions.
Professor Martin Blunt
Department of earth science and engineering,
Imperial College London

Ah, you see, Jim compared the annual storage of CO2 with the emissions from 20 years of oil pumping.

When, in fact, we should either be comparing the 20 years of CO2 storage with the 20 years of oil pumping, or the annual CO2 storage with the annual oil pumping.

Comparing an annual input with a two decades long output is bound to give us some dodgy numbers.

Now this of course depends upon the Professor above being correct. Perhaps Jim would like to revisit his figures and tell us who is correct here?

Northern Rock Shareholders

I really don\’t think these people have a chance:

Last month Alistair Darling rejected two private sector bids for the bank in favour of nationalisation. Payouts for shareholders were to be determined by an "independent valuer" who would begin the process following a debate in parliament, expected to be after the Easter recess.

Lawson said a fair assessment would put the shares at book value – the assets minus the liabilities – of about £1.5bn, or £4 a share. Six months before the crash the bank was valued at more than £5bn.

He said the valuation process would strip shareholders of their property, which was a breach of article 1 of the Human Rights Act on rights to property.

"In our view the UK government has confiscated the shares even though there was a good private sector solution on the table that would have enabled the company to recover and repay the debts owed to the Bank of England.

"They have promised to pay some compensation but have rigged the basis of the valuation of the shares so that shareholders are likely to get very little or nothing."

Crock was bust without the guarantees.

However, I wouldn\’t put it past the recent flood of legislation to have provided a pretext for them to get more than th about 5p per share that\’s likely to be on offer.

So, umm, maybe they do have a chance, but it\’s not one that they ought to have perhaps.

Plea Bargaining?


Finally, to help the FSA do its job, we need a formal process of plea bargaining in a financial court. Our prosecutors\’ record on white collar crime is so dismal because we tie one hand behind their backs.

In the face of potential financial ruin there is often little incentive other than to plead not guilty and fight. A formal system of plea bargaining would allow a defendant to cut a judicial deal, knowing that in return for a guilty plea his lawyers will be able to negotiate a punishment. It works in the US. It\’s time it worked here.

The way it "works" in the US is that people get charged with everything, from mail and wire fraud through dodgy accounting to torturing kittens. Faced with millions, if not tens of millions, in defense costs and the prospect of decades injail, they thn negotiate down to the wire fraud, at which point they still get ruined by civil suits. Launched, of course, on the back of the fact that they are now convicted criminals.

Prosecutorial abuse is widespread in the US. No, let\’s not import that system into Britain, shall we? Not everything American is better than what we already have and their legal system is one of them.

Business Link

An interesting description and an explanation of why th money spent upon Business Link produces no measurable output whatsoever.

We talked about the £12.5 million that Darling has in the budget to encourage female entrepreneurs.  We wanted to know how this was going to be distributed. As with many of these things it may have been dropped into the budget at the last minute and Theresa didn\’t know how it was going to work. Along with the other women sitting at my table, we voiced the opinion that it should not be distributed by Business Link.  If this was the plan then they might as well just throw the money in the bin now, as it will never get to the right place in the right quantities.  The problem with Business Link is that all of their advisers are retired male civil servants who have never run their own business. They have no idea of the challenges that women face. The curse of the men in grey suits again.

There\’s some of your government waste right there. Best abolish it all and save the money, eh?

A Very Good Description of the Gender Pay Gap

Surprisingly, it\’s in the New Statesman.

It\’s quite fun seeing the writer (Richard Reeves) pottering along and saying all the right things…the gender pay gap is indeed caused by the career breaks and the subsequent preference for part time working amongst women caused by child bearing and rearing. Firms are not acting irrationally when they downgrade the importance or status of part time jobs and so on.

But given that this is simply the interaction of peoples\’ choices which creates the pay gap, how can anyone be against the existence of it?

Markets are usually good at offering choice, but at present the labour market is failing the family. Companies are not generally acting on the basis of a rigorous business case against senior part-timers. They are exhibiting what psychologists call "path dependency": doing what they do because that\’s what they\’ve always done. A decisive legislative strike on the Dutch model could jolt them on to a fairer path. Rather than aiming at creating economy-friendly families, it is time to shape a family-friendly economy.

I would even buy that path dependence argument, if it weren\’t for this:

It is important to be clear what the problem is. Is it bad news that women want to spend time with their children? Surely not, given the evidence for the importance of parental engagement in the early years of a child\’s life. Are these women "forced" into part-time work, and now just grinning and bearing it? No – the overwhelming majority say they positively chose part-time work, and their job satisfaction is higher than that of mothers working full-time. Most men and women, according to the British Social Attitudes Survey, think that a conventional division of labour is the right one, with mothers taking on the bulk of responsibility for childcare.

And this:

Employers are reluctant to retain or hire senior part-timers. While 60 per cent of employers say they would allow a woman returning from maternity leave to switch to part-time status, of these only two-thirds would allow her to remain at the same level of seniority. So, less than half would permit a reduction in hours without loss of status. This may not just be the result of Jurassic attitudes, as Gregory admits: "We can\’t assume that employers are simply stupid." Assuming it costs as much to hire and train part-timers as full-timers, they will offer a lower return on investment. There may also be co-ordination costs, especially associated with part-time or job-sharing managers. But it is hard to know the true height of these barriers.

If it costs more to employ part timers then part timers will get less pay.

It might be that there is in fact no "solution" to this problem. Even if contracts were adjusted so that men can take similar child rearing leave, this would simply mean a pay gap between parents and the childless. And given that social attitude about childcare, there would still be many more women takinig the extended leaves than men and thus still that gender pay gap that everyone is complaining about.

I can\’t see any problem wih encouraging companies to offer more fleixible work packages: I can see large ones with legislating to force them to do so. This will benefit larger companies at the expense of smaller as the larger you are the more flexible you can be. Screwing SMEs really isn\’t in the long term interest of the economy.

What I rather like about the way the debate is turning out now though is that at least the problem itself is being correctly identified and the causes properly noted.

Yes, there is a pay gap and it\’s a motherhood, or a child bearing and rearing pay gap.

Now we have to answer two further questions. Do we want to do anything about it, given that it is coming from the voluntary choices of the people involved?

Secondly, is there actually anything we can do about it?

Anything that isn\’t entirely counter-productive, that is?


Richie, Richie….

Or should it be Dick Murphy?

Unlike the TPA, the TJN works in the real world. We talk to real politicians, from the Conservatives, Lib Dems and across the Labour perspective. We do not deal outside the limits of credibility. But facing real issues makes it so much harder to get coverage.

But I’ll trade fewer press reports for credibility any day, and there is no one of any credibility in government or opposition in our parliament who takes the TPA seriously. Thankfully.

So the Tax Justice Network is a very serious and sober organisation with great credibility while the Taxpayers\’ Alliance are shills, working outside the limits of credibility.

This is the sober judgement of a man who makes the following statement, in the same piece:

Put it another way: he moved further Right than the right wing of the Tories. He moved out of the political mainstream and into the Neo-Con, libertarian hinterlands.

Er,. Neo-Cons and Libertarians the same thing, the same people? Really?

Rather missing the bitterest division on the right aren\’t we?



50% of observed global warming is the result of socioeconomic factors?

The logic, in a nutshell, being that if the warming is global then it should be the same in countries getting richer as in those not.

However, there\’s a discrepancy, meaning that at least some (50% is claimed) of the warming observed in rich countries is as a result of things like urban heat island effects, formerly rural stations becoming urban etc.

Anyone seen a discussion of this paper elsewhere? Any climate change warriors addressed it?

Well, Yes

Although, to be fair, we didn\’t look to Prezza for the porno, rather the comedy value.

Is there a reason I need to know about the legal, consensual sex acts of various tri-state governors? I know the economy is bad, but surely things are not yet so dire that we must look to our elected officials for pornography.

Well, Quite

Brian Micklethwait

I am more than ever convinced that if the entire state education system were to drop dead tomorrow morning, that would be a great improvement for some people immediately, for many people in a few weeks, for most people in a few months, and for almost everyone in a few years.  After a decade, the results would be miraculous.  Some of the money saved should be spent on more policemen and more temporary prisons and juvenile detention centres, and in a perfect world, the rest of the money no longer wasted would be knocked off the income tax.  But even if the money no longer wasted was instead spent on something more frivolous, less well-meaning, and hence merely less harmful than state education, like jobs for the otherwise unfrocked bureaucrats doing absolutely nothing but write bitter reports for each other to read and snarl about, that would still be a great improvement for the rest of us.

Willie Rushton

Slightly bizarre:

There was also an odd postscript, that few people know of. Willie Rushton brought the ashes back to England in an Air France hold-all. "What have you got in that bag, Mr Rushton?" he was asked at Customs. "Tony Hancock," came the truthful reply.