Archive for category It’s the stupid economy

Insert mandatory “hot air” pun here

It’s a shame that the PCC refuse to rule on misleading headlines, because the Daily Mail has a doozy today: Revealed: Wind farm power twice as costly as gas or coal.

If you read that headline, you might assume that means that all wind farms cost twice as much to run as fossil fuel plants. Certainly, that’s the impression the Mail wants to leave you with but, as always, the devil is in the details.

The true cost of Britain’s massive expansion of wind farms has been revealed.

It costs nearly twice as much to generate electricity from an offshore wind farm as it does from a conventional power station, a scientific report has concluded.

And while the price of wind power is expected to fall in the coming decade, the researchers admit there is a slight chance it could rise even further.

Did you spot the giveaway word in there? Yep, in fact this information only deals with offshore wind farms – though the Daily Mail seems to forget this several times and refer to “wind power” unqualified . According to The Telegraph‘s slightly more accurate report, a megawatt hour of offshore wind power costs £149, a megawatt hour of onshore wind power costs £88 and a megawatt hour of coal power costs £80 (though I’d imagine that refers to old-fashioned coal power, not “clean” coal).

The “scientific report” in question is Great Expectations: The cost of offshore wind in UK waters by the UK Energy Research Centre which didn’t conclude that it costs twice as much at all. Instead, working from the initial data that offshore wind power was expensive, the researchers conclusions were that the costs of offshore wind power have been inflated by rising commodities prices, supply chain problems and the shift of the pound against the euro and that government action (encouraging turbine companies to manufacture parts in Britain, building larger ports capable of accepting the gigantic equipment) should be able to bring the prices down.

In other words, a more accurate headline might be “High costs of offshore wind set to fall”, though of course that would involve realising that this is a complicated issue, with lots of economic forces at work, instead of simply saying “Wind power is more expensive! And what do you do when the wind stops blowing, eh?”

Incidentally, the Daily Express‘s take on the report is even more bizarre:

THE £4billion of wind turbines off Britain’s coast still generate less electricity than a conventional power station, a report revealed yesterday.

And the cost of building offshore wind farms has doubled in the past five years to £3million per megawatt.

The UK’s offshore windfarms generate 1,341 MW. I can only find American data, sadly, but according to that, the average output of a coal power plant is 667 MW. So in fact, our offshore wind is generating as much as two average conventional power stations. I suppose by “a conventional power station” they could mean a monster like Drax or Didcot, but in that case the Express is being very misleading.

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TaxPayers’ Alliance or The Sun editorial team – who’s worse?

Two sets of lies and disortions on the same story from The Sun and The Daily Express. Let’s tackle The Sun‘s first, in today’s “The Sun Says” editorial:*

THE Government can’t move fast enough to carry out disability benefit medical checks.

Almost one million workless households are getting large handouts by claiming that every member over 16 is sick, injured or disabled.

That would make us the sickest and most accident-prone country in Europe – which we aren’t.

Really? Let’s have a look at the Europe-wide disability benefits statistics (PDF). The data are a little bit old (2005), but it’s the most recent I could find, and according to DWP statistics (PDF), the number of people on incapacity benefits has dropped slightly between 2005 to 2010 (from 1.83 million to 1.78 million (table 1.2 of the DWP data, p. 11)), so if anything, this data will be an overestimate.

Graph 1.1 of the European data (p. 17) conveniently shows the proportion of the UK population on incapacity benefits compared to all other EU countries. In fact, we’re 8th out of 25 in terms of the proportion of our population on long term disability benefits. True, we’re above (as The Sun would put it, “sicker and more accident-prone than”) Malta, Cyprus, Greece, Estonia, France, Germany and Slovenia, but we’re below Portugal, Latvia, Ireland, Slovakia, Italy, Belgium, Poland, Austria, Luxembourg, Estonia, the Czech Republic, Denmark, the Netherlands, Finland, Lithuania, Sweden and Hungary.

So the entire point of The Sun‘s editorial – that clearly there must be disability benefit fraud going on, since more people are on benefit than in any other European country – is nothing but a lie.

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Biased about bias

Never let it be said the Mail won’t take any opportunity to attack the BBC. Yesterday it was over left-wing bias*, today it’s over right-wing bias.

The BBC was caught in a political row last night after its boss Mark Thompson was apparently attempting to cosy up to the Government following complaints over Left-wing bias.

The corporation’s director general was photographed arriving at No 10 clutching a memo insisting the BBC is ready to put its coverage of public spending cuts into ‘context’.

The move will prompt claims that the broadcaster is trying to curry favour with an increasingly hostile Coalition Government to preserve its generous licence fee funding.

So wait, has it been caught in a row yet, or not? There’s no mention in the article of anyone objecting to the memo, and the only verification is from an anonymous BBC source.

The claims in this article come from a single partially obscured telephoto shot of Thompson carrying a document written by the head of news Helen Boaden describing a meeting with the coalition’s Director of Communications Andy Coulson (who is incidentally involved in a much larger scandal that the Daily Mail have curiously forgotten to report on). Does the document support the Mail’s claims? Let’s see. Here’s a transcription of the relevant parts of the memo:

For background which may help…. I had lunch with Andy Coulson [...]

concerned that we give context to the Spending Review Season (I[...]

Birt…). I said that’s what we always try to do and part of the reason [...]

inform the public about the whys and wherefores… though I did exp[...]

a range of voices on all the issues.

Over the summer, we have mostly been driven by news lines and [...]

leaked letter from the Justice dept. Phillip Green being brought in, [...]

milk being axed and then restored, criticism of the OBR and the [...]

the poorest would be hardest hit by the Spending Review implic[...]

tried to put in a broader context.

Does that sound like the BBC trying to “curry favour” with the coalition, or does that sound like the BBC trying to defend their position? They aren’t offering to put its coverage in context, they’re saying “We already do.”

* Despite how the papers tried to spin it, Thompson was only talking about left-wing bias in the 1970s.

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TaxPayers’ Alliance says jump, Express says ‘How high?’

Red tape

Some very sparkly EU red tape.

Sorry, this is going to be a very dry post today. I mean, unless you enjoy poring over lists of Government regulations in which case this will be your favourite blog post on the entire interweb.

The Express, and only the Express, today leads with “UK’s £10bn bill for EU red tape“. Clearly we’ve been buying a lot of tape.

The typical rent-a-quotes are out in force in this article; Philip Davies MP says:

“The vast majority of businesses don’t have any dealings with the EU. It’s particularly galling that they have to bear the costs of the regulations. When people realise how much the EU costs they will come to the conclusion that we would be better off out.”

The TaxPayers’ Alliance (whoops, wrong link) meanwhile pops in to add:

“The cost of the red tape now exceeds the value of the business it is intended to regulate. It’s sheer madness, and not why we joined in the first place.”

Firstly, if you think the entirety of the British economy is now worth less than £10 billion, you are probably not a reliable source of economic information. Secondly, this article is oddly long on anger, short on facts.

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