Tag Archives: Putin

How many solar panels can you eat?

It’s interesting that both Liz Truss and Rishi Sunak have spoken out against covering farmland with solar panels. You do wonder if finally, people are beginning to wake up a little.

Personally I think that, whether he intended to or not, Putin has created a watershed in history, but not perhaps in the way he intended.

If we go back to the start of the century, Ed Miliband put the green levies on energy. But at the same time a lot of other things were put in place, all nicely set ten, twenty or even thirty years ahead. Politicians were kicking unexploded bombs into the long grass secure in the knowledge that by the time these things happened and the public started feeling the pain, they’d be long retired on a good pension and their successors could take the flak.

When they were announced, the ban on the installation of new gas boilers in homes (2025) and the ban on the sales of new petrol and diesel cars (2030) seemed a long time off.
But the aim was that energy was always going to become more expensive. Fewer people would be able to heat their homes to the level they were used to, people would learn to wear more clothes indoors and probably cut back gradually on non-essential spending. This was always on the cards, you cannot increase the proportion of somebody’s income they have to pay on one thing and expect them to keep spending as much on anything else. Over a period our economy would have evolved. Some people, perhaps those in hospitality, or perhaps in fast fashion, would take a kicking, but people would switch industries.

But from the politicians’ point of view, this was safely a long way off. But time has moved on. The next general election is 2025, and whoever wins that has to take all the flak for boilers and try and cope with the chaos as they frantically try to create enough charging points for electric cars. I do seriously wonder if the Labour party leader has been smart enough to work out that the next election is one you don’t want to win and feels for the good of the party it would be better to be out of office until the 2030 election.

And then we have Covid, which utterly screwed both work patterns, but also expectations. When we had lockdown a lot of people just sat at home and were paid damn near their full salary for doing nothing, whilst a lot more ‘worked from home’ and got full salary for doing, in some cases, not much more. When trouble hits, government will dance amongst us like some frenetic Easter bunny, bountifully casting largesse at random.

Finally stir Putin into the mix. With regard to energy, Putin has merely forced EU and other states to do what they were supposedly intending to do it, but in six months, not thirty years. The politicians who assumed all this stuff would hit when they were collecting their pensions are watching with horror as the political slurry washes around their beautiful patent leather shoes.

Let us get acknowledge this first. When the tanks crossed with Ukrainian border, the world changed.

Even if Putin falls, will anybody dare rely on Russian energy? Or will the continued rush into renewables and nuclear continue, leaving Russia a minor raw materials producer with an aging population and an embarrassing dearth of young men?

Also, from a farming point of view, Putin massively dislocated the production and distribution of basic foodstuffs. Even a UK politician cannot ignore that effect.

Indeed, it may be that one of the best things that happened to British farmers was a drought this summer. On top of a world food crisis, and world energy crisis, it was obvious that we cannot take our own food production for granted.

Suddenly bold schemes for rewilding and/or covering vast areas with solar panels and trees are starting to look a tad silly. Hopefully they’re obviously silly enough for even politicians to be embarrassed at being seen to promote them.  

So what will this winter be like?
I suspect we’ll be sick of seeing underdressed but photogenic people (probably in the Home Counties) complaining their houses are cold because they’ve had to turn the central heating down a couple of degrees. Elsewhere less photogenic people in poorer areas will be wearing every garment they have. But then this isn’t new, last year at our foodbank a company donated a heap of nice new fleece blankets which we handed out to people. They could sit under them in an evening and not spend so much on heating. They were much appreciated.

People will expect the government to revert to Easter bunny mode but the basket is pretty empty. Obviously we’ll hear the usual moans about taxing billionaires. I checked. We have 177 of them. If we cashed them in, sold them and their families onto the Chinese organ market, we’d probably raise £653bn. (Which we wouldn’t get because most of them are only resident here and most of their money will be working abroad.)
UK government spending was £1,092.4 billion in 2020-21 and out current debt is £2.59 trillion. So cashing in our billionaires would pay off about a quarter of our debt, or perhaps scrap income tax for twelve months.
Still, even without cashing in the billionaires, we’ll probably have enough food, but prices will go up. The foodbanks are gearing up for this, the writing has been on the wall since March. So if you’re in the supermarket and pass the basket that they have for the foodbank, don’t be embarrassed to drop something into it. Everything is appreciated.  

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There again, what do I know? Speak to the experts.
Available from Amazon as a paperback or on Kindle

And in every other electronic format

https://books2read.com/u/md7XEX

As a reviewer commented “A collection of anecdotes and observations about farming in England in the 21st century. Written by an actual farmer, this book is based on real experience and touches on a variety of subjects in a witty and engaging style. Cats, cattle, bureaucrats, workers, and the working dog all make an appearance, as do reminiscences about the old days and speculation on a possible future. This book is both entertaining and informative, a perfect diversion for the busy reader.”

Cognitive Dissonance and keeping people fed.

Don’t you know there is a war on? What does it take to get people to take things seriously? Do we need Chief Warden Hodges from Dad’s Army storming round Brussels shouting ‘Put that Light Out’?

There is a problem with people. They will continue to believe things even when they’re obviously not true. As an example of this, YouGov do a daily chat, they email it to tens of thousands of people. They will ask various questions on the subject chosen for today, but the fascinating part is that you see the number of people who have agreed with which answer.

So when they asked what precautions people were taking against covid, I took a screenshot of the answer. 47% of people said they were wearing a facemask. I have to ask where? In the comfort and safety of their own home? When they’re in bed? Because they’re certainly not wearing it outside. In the last fortnight I’ve travelled on mainline railways, the London under and over ground, I’ve been in shops and meetings all over the place. People wearing masks form, I would guess, no more than 1% of the population. So why on earth are people ticking the box saying they still wear a mask?

Is it they want the smug glow of being a caring and concerned person who thinks of others, without actually having to go to the effort of being a caring and concerned person who thinks about others? Note at this point I’m not saying do or don’t wear a mask. That is entirely up to the individual and I’m not going to point the finger or mock somebody’s decision on this topic whatever they decide. I just want to know why such a large proportion of the population who obviously don’t wear masks, claim they still do?

But this morning on the radio I heard an even more ridiculous example of an inability to accept the real world. Anybody who has been part of the EU will know that its bureaucracy can take years to catch up with reality. But the Ukrainian war has thrown this into high relief. Ignoring foot dragging by the leaders of wealthy countries who’re so in hock to Russian gas it’s an embarrassment to their citizens, just look at the borders.

In the UK we’re arguing about the Northern Ireland Protocol and the EU is threatening trade wars and all sorts of things. But on the Rumanian frontier with Ukraine, a country they’re trying to help, farmers are trying to get Ukrainian grain out of the Ukraine. This is vital, it is almost ridiculously important, people will starve without that grain. More power to their elbow. Yet the EU is doing the equivalent of standing outside your house and clapping ineffectually.

One farmer has taken four loads (at 25 tons a load) across the border. The queue to get out of the Ukraine with your grain is 20km, the queue to get back into the Ukraine is 15km. He could spend six days in the queue. On the fourth trip, Rumanian customs demanded paperwork that hadn’t been needed on the first three trips.

A picture taken by a Ukrainian farmer of the queue he was stuck in.

The Ukrainian farmers are running out of money, they’re running out of fuel. The EU is managing to do what even Putin couldn’t manage.

And anyway, what sort of utter muppet creates a 20km queue in a war zone where the Russians are targeting civilian infrastructure? How many dead do the EU want? Perhaps if senior bureaucrats were forced to ride in the wagon caps, things might move faster?

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What do I know, talk to an expert.

As a reviewer commented, “This is the third collection of farmer Jim Webster’s anecdotes about his sheep, cattle and dogs. This one had added information on the Lake District’s World Heritage status. This largely depends upon the work of around 200 small family farms. Small may not always be beautiful but it can be jolly important. If you want to know the different skills needed by a sheep dog and a cow dog, or to hear tales of some of the old time travelling sales persons – read on! This is real life, Jim, but not as I know it.”

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

https://www.themoscowtimes.com/2019/07/02/ukraine-takes-worlds-largest-grain-exporter-title-from-russia-a66250

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

https://edition.cnn.com/2022/02/14/business/russia-ukraine-wheat-corn/index.html

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.

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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.”

The yapping of small dogs.

A phrase I’ve always liked is “When small men begin to cast big shadows, it means that the sun is about to set.” — Lin Yutang

I was looking sheep this morning. It was raining on and off and I got rained on twice. But as I walked up a track towards one house I could see their little dog standing in the window watching me. But as it turned, it could see its own reflection in the mirror over the mantelpiece. So it barked at the strange dog in its house.

Of course in jumped down onto the floor to chase the mutt off, and of course, it could no long see the strange dog, so the tactic had obviously worked. And better still, it will continue to work. Because every time it gets up on the window ledge to look out, it’ll glance over its shoulder and discover that other chuffing dog is back. So it’ll have to drive it off again. Hours of fun for all the family.

It’s just that somebody sent me a link to an article about Russia. It seems that President Vladimir Putin has had ‘illegally imported foreign food’ ostentatiously destroyed, live, in front of cameras. To prove to his own people that he’s a big important man and isn’t to be crossed.

But it’s funny. These ‘big important men’, how can you tell them? Well I’ve been doing a series of interviews for an editor and writing them up. This means chasing busy people, phoning them up and taking twenty minutes of their time to do an interview. They’re all busy people, all worth talking to.

But written next to one name on the list was the cryptic comment that this chap was the ‘real deal’ and was seriously important and therefore should be handled tactfully. Yet this is that chap who not only returned my phone call, he booked a time for an interview, and then rang me to do it.

The really important people are normally important enough to remember that society is held together by the thin glue of courtesy and if we want society to keep hanging together, we’ve got to be prepared to keep splashing the glue about as we pass through the day.

If President Vladimir Putin had been a really big man, he’d have taken this food and given it to old people’s homes or used it, with match funding from the centre, to provide meals for those who have so little. The big men (and big women) don’t need to throw their weight about to prove that they’re important.

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Many years ago, (it could be fifty), I heard the lyrics of a song on a BBC television news and current affairs programme. The chorus has stayed with me after all this time, although I’ve never managed to track the rest of it down.

“Doctors and teachers exams must pass,

If ere they wish to rise above the working class.

And if perchance, they’ve just scraped through,

I’ll give you ten to one that they look down on you.

Ho, ho, just scraped through.

I’ll give you ten to one that they look down on you.”

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There again, bring a little fun into your life

As a reviewer commented “Benor is a cartographer and he’s come to Port Naain to produce a handbook. He makes a home with Tallis, a professional poet and his wife Shena. She’s a mud-jobber or as we might say, a beachcomber. Some of her combings include bodies. Everything has a price and families will pay for the privilege of burying their dead and, if possible, finding who caused it. Benor is a natural. He’s a nosy person and, with the aid of the wonderful Mutt, a ten year-old wise beyond his years, he sorts out the villains from the corpses. This first short story from The Port Naain Intelligencer bodes well for the rest of the series. A really great Whodunit.”