Is now the time to halt all environmental schemes?

At the moment we are not in a good position. The west has said to Putin, ‘You’re not the Messiah, you’re a very naughty boy. We’re not going to let you play with our football.” It’s then added, “Oh but you’ll still sell us wheat won’t you?”
Perhaps Putin is going to just say, “Obesity is a major problem in the west, it’ll do you all good to eat less.”

The trouble is that Russia and the Ukraine have been vying for the position of the world’s largest grain exporters for some time. From 2019

To quote, “Russia has been the global grain exporter top dog for the last three years, but as the agricultural marketing year ended on June 30, it looks like Ukraine has snatched the title back from its rival.”

The problem is, it’s awfully difficult to plant grain when somebody is fighting a major war over the field you intended to be working in. Putin hasn’t parked his tanks on your lawn, he’s driving them over lunch. So now the quandary, do you want a quick war, over in a month so that the Ukrainians, watched over by their Russian siblings, can plant those fields, then later in the year we can grovel to Putin asking him to sell us the grain? Or do you want the Ukrainians to hang on, even give Putin a bloody nose and make him think again about crushing democracies, but then find bread is going to be awfully expensive come this winter (but look on the bright side, you won’t be able to afford the gas or electric to make toast). Luckily in the UK we don’t buy much grain from the Ukraine or Russia, but then we don’t buy much gas from Russia but the market was disrupted and our gas supplies got a lot more expensive. The same will probably happen with grain. To quote CNN Business

Concerns about an imminent Russian invasion of Ukraine are roiling the market for agricultural products like wheat at a time when global food prices are already near 10-year highs.

Russia is the world’s top exporter of wheat. Ukraine is also a significant exporter of both wheat and corn. That’s sending prices for grains on a bumpy ride as investors assess the potential for conflict.

“There’s certainly volatility based on what is going on,” said Peter Meyer, head of grain analytics at S&P Global Platts.

Interference in shipments of wheat or corn from Russia and Ukraine could exacerbate food inflation, most notably in parts of the world that depend on them for supplies.

Global food prices rose as much as 28% in 2021, according to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, and are expected to continue to climb this year due to persistent supply chain issues.

“Ukraine is a major exporter of wheat and corn and any disruption to its exports would lead to a spike in global prices,” said Ophelia Coutts, a Russia analyst at the global risk consultancy Verisk Maplecroft. “A combination of high food and energy prices will accentuate a cost-of-living crisis and increase the potential for civil unrest in many places, particularly in Africa and the Middle East.”

Let’s be brutally honest about it, given the massive hike in the price of fertilisers and fuel, the price of grain needed to go up, even if Putin wasn’t playing silly beggars on the Dnieper.

But what do we do about it?
Well in the west there is a window. Boris could, probably without parliamentary permission, suspend all environmental schemes that took land out of production. He’d probably have to do it for a fixed period (say two or three years) and he could encourage grain production.

Ideally the Americans and the EU would copy us. Yes it would probably be bad for the environment, ploughing releases CO2 back into the atmosphere, but look at the bright side, you’d be able to afford to eat next year and we might not see chaos rip through Africa and the Middle East when they couldn’t afford bread.

With regard to energy Boris has got severe problems, not of his own making. A large proportion of a previous generation of our political leaders were gutless nonentities who didn’t have the courage to give us a rational energy policy.
Personally I think he should lay a bill before parliament allowing fracking for a fixed term of years. It should also lay down strict regulations, to be strictly enforced, as to what you can put down the sewers, then we can use sewage sludge as fertiliser. That way we can still afford to grow the food we need.

Also Rolls Royce are doing work on small nuclear reactors that will serve a town. (They’re effectively nuclear sub reactors). This programme should be expedited! Those towns that don’t want one can buy ridiculously expensive gas instead.

The advantage of putting it before parliament is that it will make MPs make a stand. If they vote against it, when constituents come crying to them because they cannot afford to heat their homes or buy food, then the MP who voted against this can tell them that they can keep warm by basking in the smug moral glow the MP got voting against it.

We’re imposing sanctions that will stop the Russians having access to financial service. Putin can impose sanctions which will mean a lot of the world will have less access to food.

I don’t know about you but I can go a lot longer without dealing with the bank than I can without lunch.


There again, what do I know, ask an expert

As a reviewer commented, “

I love Jim’s autobiographical musings. They make me feel that I am following him and Sal, his dog and manager, around the farm as he encounters the vicissitudes of everyday life. I feel I’m wandering around after him, with his great narrative style.

This book, along with the others in this series, are an absolute treat and gives us the opportunity to explore life in someone else’s head.”

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45 thoughts on “Is now the time to halt all environmental schemes?

  1. Cathy Cade February 24, 2022 at 10:02 am Reply

    Nah… that would be common sense. You don’t get that from politicians. You get whatever will please the biggest (or loudest) crowd NOW.

    • jwebster2 February 24, 2022 at 10:04 am Reply

      Perhaps we can eat bankers and politicians when the bread runs out? Probably cooked medium rare 🙂

  2. Jane Sturgeon February 24, 2022 at 10:19 am Reply

    Ahh, Jim, rarely has common sense prevailed, when power plays are at work. 😉

    • jwebster2 February 24, 2022 at 12:32 pm Reply

      sad but true. Still, they’re going to struggle to blag their way through this lot

  3. M T McGuire February 24, 2022 at 10:37 am Reply

    I could bang on about power from wee here but I won’t*. It does seem, though, that we are looking to things that are easy fixes rather than answers. To be honest, as the mother of a 14 year old son, his being called up to fight in world war three in a couple of years is not the future I envisaged for him.

    Future Me says smack him on the nose I am very happy to have avoided living through a world war thus far and unlike Putin who is clearly interested in having the experience, I don’t want to start now.

    Present Me says start looking at all the small sources of energy that we currently ignore. Look for the little things that add up.

    Accelerate quorn production so we can add it to meat production and cover our protein needs in house using the substantial amounts of heat it makes to create energy. Use more wave energy. Look at running cars on hydrodgen – is it any more unstable than petrol? And there’s stacks of it which would leave the electricity to be used heating homes and for factories in production rather than charging car batteries and yes, maybe plough up set aside land.

    Rather than fracking, maybe accelerate investigations into sticking hydrodgen down the gas pipes instead of natural gas. Or accelerate investigation into generating power from wee and from plankton/algae.

    So Fracking no, plough up yes but maybe, hedging more? Also presumably, if we start focusing on the land, we will be reverting to acting as Apex predator again so will start keeping pests down and song bird numbers will start to recover.

    Amazingly, the Far Right are painting Biden and Trudeau as Communist dictator and bigging up Putin as the man who will save us. Let’s hope he doesn’t listen to their cries for ‘help’. It’s good to read your economist’s take on this because as a historian, I’m finding it rather a disturbing spectacle.

    • fgsjr2015 February 26, 2022 at 3:34 am Reply

      Especially when considering most humans’ very vulnerable over-reliance on electricity, it may no longer be prudent to have every structure’s entire electricity supply relying on external power lines that are susceptible to being crippled by unforeseen events, in particular weather storms of unprecedented magnitude. Also, coronal mass ejections’ powerful EMF effects leave electrical grids vulnerable to potentially extensive damage and long-lasting power outages.

      It seems logical that every structure should try independently harvesting solar energy, at least as an emergency power storage system. There already are fossil-fuel-powered generator systems that engage once the regular electric-grid flow gets cut off, so why not use clean solar energy instead of the very old school and carbon intensive means?

      But I suspect that, here in the corpocratic West, if the universal availability of a renewable energy alternative would come at the expense of the traditional ‘energy’ production companies’ large profits, one can expect obstacles, including the political and regulatory sort. If something notably conflicts with corporate big-profit interests, even very progressive motions are greatly resisted, often enough successfully. And, of course, there will be those who will rebut the concept altogether, perhaps solely on the illogic that if it was possible, it would have been patented already and made a few people very wealthy.

      • M T McGuire February 26, 2022 at 9:19 am

        Absolutely. They do say, don’t they that there are more technological advances during a war and any other time? I would guess that’s because the corporations who are holding things back in the interest of their own profits are not so able to manipulate how things are done. And I do think you’re right that corporate greed from massive megacorps that are no longer nimble enough to react to the market is holding us back. After all look at air travel – or perhaps don’t.

        Being rather broad brush here, but air travel hasn’t changed that much and the core technology of aeroplanes hasn’t changed much since the 1950s. If you’ve read as much 1950s and 60s sci-fi as I have you’d think we’d have scramjets by now. We should be getting to Australia in 3 hours, and indeed the technology exists to do so, but it’s not happening because it’s too expensive to change the corporate infrastructure in the aerospace industry. And of course there are vastly rich people in whose interest it is to keep making jets and engines and air travel the same as they’ve been.

        The far right are really weird. It’s something to do with a book called The Big reset which I must read so that I understand what an earth they’re banging on about. But actually if Putin’s following Hitler’s playbook or even the playbook of the Russian government agents in the Communist block at the end of world war II then one of his first steps would be to undermine our faith in mainstream news and substitute other spurious propaganda services. The way I see it he’s probably ticked that off as pretty much job done.

        Personally, I see no change in the editorial bias of the mainstream news since I was a kid, but where it seems to differ these days is that, while I accept, appreciate and account for the bias of whatever news organ I’m looking at, the the far right have this bizarre quest for ‘truth’ when, really, there is no such thing. There are only facts and it’s down to the person disseminating those facts as to how they’re spun. I have a friend who’s gone very much the way of ‘the BBC is lies and only Breitbart disseminates REAL news’. I am always very disturbed by the way that the articles he shares with me as examples of proper journalism are written. They are always in that robust laying-down-the-law kind of language that you expect to find in a 1930s national socialist propaganda leaflet. I find it disturbing that people are falling for this. Then again, words are my bread and butter and I was a marketing manager. So I know all about NLP and I can see when a piece of writing is employing trigger words and all that sort of stuff in order to manipulate the reader. Perhaps it isn’t as obvious to those of us who haven’t been steeped in it, professionally, for years. 🤷 I don’t know.

      • jwebster2 February 27, 2022 at 6:13 am

        Following up military history projects looking at what was going on in the 1930s and scraping through the darker corners of second hand bookshops to read what was written about Abyssinia, Spain or China, it is amazing what was published, even by Penguin or Pelican back before the war. Post truth is not new 🙂
        As one chap once said, “What is truth?” But the same chap, when the local authorities came to complain about his comments on the sign above a crucified man answered, “What I have written, I have written”
        So he may have begun to grasp the truth 🙂

      • M T McGuire February 27, 2022 at 9:00 am

        Yeh. I can believe it. As for the gentleman in question, I hope he did. He’s one of the characters in that particular story that I always feel a great deal of sympathy for. Which probably says a lot about my own wishy-washy lukewarm approach to everything my efforts to try and understand both sides of any arguement – which usually mean it just sends up doing my head in. 🤣🤣

      • fgsjr2015 March 8, 2022 at 2:57 am

        “Personally, I see no change in the editorial bias of the mainstream news since I was a kid, but where it seems to differ these days is that, while I accept, appreciate and account for the bias of whatever news organ I’m looking at, the the far right have this bizarre quest for ‘truth’ when, really, there is no such thing.”

        After 35 years of news consumption, I’ve found that the mainstream news-media, especially the corporately owned, are generally ethically challenged and have become increasingly so with time.

        Up here, even our mainstream print news-media formally support Canada’s fossil fuel industry. Conglomerate Postmedia — which, except for The Toronto Star, owns Canada’s major print publications — is on record allying itself with not only the planet’s second most polluting forms of carbon-based “energy”, but also THE MOST polluting/dirtiest of crudes — bitumen. [“Mair on Media’s ‘Unholiest of Alliances’ With Energy Industry”, Nov.14 2017,]

        During a presentation, it was stated: “Postmedia and CAPP [Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers] will bring energy to the forefront of our national conversation. Together, we will engage executives, the business community and the Canadian public to underscore the ways in which the energy sector powers Canada.”

        Also, a then-publisher of Postmedia’s National Post said: “From its inception, the National Post has been one of the country’s leading voices on the importance of energy to Canada’s business competitiveness internationally and our economic well-being in general. We will work with [Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers] to amplify our energy mandate and to be a part of the solution to keep Canada competitive in the global marketplace. The National Post will undertake to leverage all means editorially, technically and creatively to further this critical conversation.”

        A few years ago, Postmedia also had acquired a lobbying firm with close ties to Alberta Premier Jason Kenney in order to participate in his government’s $30 million PR “war room” in promoting the interests of the fossil fuel industry in Canada. Furthermore, in late May, Postmedia refused to run paid ads by Leadnow, a social and environmental justice organization, that expose the Royal Bank of Canada as the largest financer of fossil fuel extraction in Canada.

        Really, should the promotion of massive fossil fuel extraction, even Canada’s own, be a partisan position for any newspaper giant to take, especially considering fossil fuel’s immense role in manmade global warming thus climate change? And, at least in this case, whatever happened to the honorable journalistic role of ‘afflicting the comfortable’ (which went along with ‘comforting the afflicted’), especially one of such environmental monstrosity?

        How can this not be considered ethically-challenged journalism? Unless, of course, it has become so systematic thus normalized — i.e. the ethical (and sometimes even the moral) standard has been further lowered — that those who are aware of it, notably politicians and political writers, don’t bother publicly discussing it.

      • M T McGuire March 8, 2022 at 7:32 am

        Quite easily because I was talking bias rather than ethics. I suspect there are certain quarters of news reporting where ethics have always been thin on the ground. Even in the 1930s one of our newspapers, the daily mail, was the voice of the far right, complaining about Jewish refugees and saying that we should send them back. It’s exactly the same today. When I was a kid I remember Private Eye collecting articles in papers owned by Murdoch bigging up his sky satellite service that were ‘masquerading as news’. That many of these things are owned by morally bankrupt plutocrats is a given. That they try to manipulate the way the news is disseminated to their own ends is also a given. Perhaps what there is more of these days is comment where reporters just bullshit about stuff when really be much better if they just delivered the facts and left us to make up our own minds. But I think I’d suspect we have a pretty similar view, but are just using our descriptors in a different way.

      • M T McGuire March 8, 2022 at 7:37 am

        Sorry I was doing voice to speech and it went a bit funny at the end there. Basically, I was just saying that I think we’re probably thinking along the same lines but using our descriptors differently. 🙂👍

    • fgsjr2015 February 26, 2022 at 3:38 am Reply

      Right-wing radio-man Lies Larson was busy ranting on and on about how it’s Joe Biden’s fault. And then how the Godless communist Justin Trudeau was taking down democratic freedoms, something similar to the supposedly ‘socialist’ Biden (which he definitely is not!). …

      P.S. I’m confident that the Russians very much love their children, too, thus nukes won’t be exchanged.

      • rootsandroutes2012 February 26, 2022 at 10:01 am

        Perhaps he should change his name to Alternative-truth Larson in case there are people around who don’t do Scandinavian 🙂

  4. M T McGuire February 24, 2022 at 10:37 am Reply

    *Oh look! I did. Mwahahahrgh!

    • jwebster2 February 24, 2022 at 12:34 pm Reply

      Not that we noticed 🙂

  5. kevinashton February 24, 2022 at 10:39 am Reply

    I like a lot of what you write Jim, it makes lot of sense even to a non farmer like me but I don’t understand why so many farmers in the UK still vote Tory? In my life time the Tories have done a lot to hurt farms, so why do turkeys keep voting for Christmas? We were better off in the EU and we wouldn’t be out of the EU if people didn’t keep voting Tory.

    • jwebster2 February 24, 2022 at 12:47 pm Reply

      In the period that I’ve been old enough to follow the fortunes of farming and of politics we’ve had about 22 years under labour, 24 years under the tories and 5 years of coalition. I think you have to accept that many farmers have similar life experiences and allow these to sway the way they vote.
      It’s the same with the EU, Remember farmers will have live experience living and farming under it. Since the 1990s EU policy has kept farm prices down and to survive we’ve had to jump through increasing complicated bureaucratic hoops. That’s just farmer experience. You may not have shared it, but they have lived it and will vote accordingly.
      Actually when you look at the proportion of farmers who voted leave, they weren’t a lot more pro-leave that the areas they lived and voted in. There’s a map I shared on

      I don’t think it’s a case of ‘why do farmers vote Tory’ but why do the population vote Tory. Looking at it from longer term perspective I suspect Blair had a lot to do with it, he may have destroyed the Labour party as a party of power with devolution. He was one of the few labour leaders to win a majority in England. When labour collapsed in Scotland the only realistic hope Labour had of power was in coalition with the SNP.
      My suspicion is this is one of the reasons Cameron did so well, probably to his chagrin, in 2015. Northern constituencies have had enough of watching the money flood into Scotland under the Barnett formula.
      In 2019 labour made the mistake of confusing Party members with the electorate. Somebody might be regarded as wonderful by Party members. This is irrelevant. The important thing is what the electorate thinks of them.

      • Doug February 24, 2022 at 4:19 pm

        When you say money flood into Scotland, you are referring to Scotland getting some of its taxes back to spend on the devolved responsibilities like the Scottish NHS, Education, Transport etc? The Barnett formula just means the UK government can’t decide to spend all the tax take from the devolved nations on a new underground line for London, without passing on a percentage share to NI Scotland and Wales.

        Unless you think Scots don’t pay taxes? It’s apparently a common perception in England.

      • jwebster2 February 24, 2022 at 6:37 pm

        Spending per capita
        Scotland: £14,842 (11% above the UK average)
        Wales: £14,222 (6% above the UK average)
        Northern Ireland £15,357 (14% above the UK average).
        Spending in NW England £12,235

      • Doug February 24, 2022 at 9:46 pm

        Yep. Spending in Northern England, the South West and so on is appallingly low. But that’s a decision by the de facto English government at Westminster. Setting up different parts of the UK to squabble about what’s left after London and the SE get the Lion’s share is reminiscent of the cartoon of the banker taking 9 of the ten biscuits and telling the worker that the immigrants are going to steal their biscuit.

      • jwebster2 February 25, 2022 at 6:20 am

        London gets £13.448 so is not seen as the major offender when it comes to snouts in the trough

  6. Doug Jacquier February 24, 2022 at 11:41 am Reply

    I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. Jim for PM (Webster not Hacker).

    • jwebster2 February 24, 2022 at 12:48 pm Reply

      I suspect I’d be replaced after a fortnight 🙂

  7. Dan Holdsworth February 24, 2022 at 11:42 am Reply

    Nuclear reactors generate heat. They are in principle nothing more than sophisticated “Fred Dibnah” steam engines and use a hot end to heat up a working fluid and a cold end to cool it down again. So, if the people want and need heat, and nukes give off a lot of heat then why not use this waste heat as town heating?

    Doing this means only that the electrical generating part of the heat engine cycle needs to be a bit hotter; the generator extracts some energy as electricity, and the “cold end” of the cycle generates steam. You then pipe steam out all across the town, in specially-insulated pipes. You also put in a network of return pipes to take the water from the spent steam back to the generation facility. Each house or business in the system then has a small heat exchanger connected to the steam supply on one side, and to the domestic central heating and hot water systems on the other.

    Of course, there have to be a number of safeguard systems to cope with whatever happens when the system is shut down or whatever, and you need some simple sort of steam meter system but all this is nineteenth century technology; we worked out how to do stuff like this donkey’s years ago. We just didn’t have either nuclear reactors or the need to do it.

    The real beauty of such a system is that it doesn’t even rob a nuclear power station of any enery as such. All it does is change the cold end of the cycle from being a set of huge cooling towers into being an entire town. Yes, you might want an additional cold end heat-sink for use in hot summers; a large water reservoir would serve adequately for this, but 99% of the time the steam pipe system will suffice.

    • jwebster2 February 24, 2022 at 12:49 pm Reply

      The joy of the new local system is that it could be used for urban heating

  8. Stevie Turner February 24, 2022 at 2:32 pm Reply

    Welcome to World War III.

    • jwebster2 February 24, 2022 at 2:51 pm Reply

      Hopefully it’ll just be a return to the cold war 😦

  9. rootsandroutes2012 February 24, 2022 at 4:55 pm Reply

    I really like Dan Holdsworth’s vision – I just wouldn’t want to be one of the taxpayers who had to stump up tens of billions to create the infrastructure it would need.

    • jwebster2 February 24, 2022 at 6:39 pm Reply

      Well you’re one of the tax payers shelling out the tens of billions they’re spending to get to net zero the current way.
      Admittedly they’re cutting on infra structure spend so rather than do it properly when you plug your electric car in overnight to charge you might find the electricity supplier has withdrawn more from your battery than it’s put in 😦

  10. Alicia Butcher Ehrhardt February 24, 2022 at 6:46 pm Reply

    Putin is risking his wheat markets. He wants to sell it to the rich first world countries, not to send it as aid to third world countries. He gets his money from the first.

    They have to remember that. And if he lets the rest of the world produce more wheat, that production capacity won’t necessarily disappear when he compromises and wants back in to the world economy. He’s cutting off his nose to spite his face. Hope he bleeds out.

    • jwebster2 February 24, 2022 at 6:55 pm Reply

      It’s tricky, the Arab spring kicked off because world wheat prices rocketed in 2008. The first world barely noticed, but the rest of it did.
      Putin has quietly been fishing in troubled waters such as Syria and Libya and parts of Africa ever since. He might expect a second go. After all if these countries collapse into famine induced rioting, Russian soldiers with bread will be welcomed.

      • Alicia Butcher Ehrhardt February 24, 2022 at 7:35 pm

        The western countries don’t have infinite funds – or they would have done somewhat more (?) for Africa, etc. – but Putin doesn’t seem to mind starving his own people to pursue world domination.

        Interesting thing: with global warming, parts of Siberia will now become inhabitable. If Putin gets more ports on the north side, things may change drastically.

        He and the Canadians and the US (in Alaska) will see the same kinds of changes Greenland and the poles are undergoing. Interesting possibilities.

      • jwebster2 February 24, 2022 at 7:44 pm

        The world is changing, suddenly Greenland became a major strategic position

      • Alicia Butcher Ehrhardt February 24, 2022 at 7:45 pm

        Our generation never really expected to have terraforming happen real time.

      • jwebster2 February 24, 2022 at 7:59 pm

        Our generation celebrated ‘the end of history’. Our generation is not to be taken seriously 😦

      • Alicia Butcher Ehrhardt February 26, 2022 at 5:48 am

        History is on an infinite repeat loop, as soon by what’s happening in Europe.

      • jwebster2 February 26, 2022 at 6:23 am

        The Russians have a proverb Solzhenitsyn quoted. “Dwell on the past you lose an eye. Forget the past you loose both eyes. ”
        Russian proverbs are rarely cheerful

  11. Eddy Winko February 24, 2022 at 8:53 pm Reply

    As usual you are on the money, although like a few other commentators I’d probably steer away from nuclear. Lets face it we cant even deal with plastic waste, never mind nuclear! It may seem cheap until you factor in the 25,000 year armed guard on a concrete canister, and don’t forget the odd mad dictator that might want to target it! Green tech is cheaper and faster to put up too, have we got 5 years whilst we build SMR? Personally I’d go for small localised power generation (saving 6% waste in transmission) but of the green kind, that should give the farmer plenty of scope to use the co2 saved use more fertiliser, although as a composting toilet kind of guy I’m with you on the point on what you throw down the loo as well.
    Then of course we could all eat less meat, save the grain for the people 🙂

    • jwebster2 February 26, 2022 at 7:41 am Reply

      We’re a pastoral area. You wouldn’t want to eat bread made from wheat grown in the west of England 🙂
      No sun and high rainfall does not make breadmaking wheat 🙂

  12. […] Is now the time to halt all environmental schemes? […]

  13. Jack Eason February 28, 2022 at 7:34 am Reply

    Reblogged this on Have We Had Help? and commented:
    A message from Jim…

  14. OIKOS™- Art, Books & more February 28, 2022 at 7:52 am Reply
  15. OIKOS™- Art, Books & more February 28, 2022 at 7:56 am Reply

    Thanks for discussing this very important topic. Lets hope our government will also think so. You know, they had not wanted to stop the the commissioning of the newest pipeline and cannot stop the shutdown of the last three nuclear power plants. It seems they have enough money on their own bank accounts. 😉 Best wishes, Michael

    • jwebster2 February 28, 2022 at 9:29 am Reply

      We’ve had a generation of politicians in the west who have believed what they wanted to believe, whatever the evidence was 😦

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