Saturday, September 06, 2008


And this warning comes from a big-time Warmist!

Half a million people could be pushed into fuel poverty by the UK's drive for wind power, the government's former chief scientific adviser has said. Sir David King said: "If we overdo wind we are going to put up the price of electricity and that means more people will fall into the fuel poverty trap." The UK has signed up to an EU agreement for 20% of power to come from renewable sources by 2020.

Professor King told the BBC EU leaders did not understand their own targets. One of Tony Blair's last acts as Prime Minister was to sign up to an EU target to have 20% of Europe's energy from renewable sources by 2020. The UK currently generates around 2% of its electricity from wind power but to meet the EU's target the government estimates this will have to increase to around 35% by the end of the next decade. It will also lead to price rises, the government thinks around 10% for electricity and closer to 20% for gas.

Professor King who who served as chief scientific adviser from 2000 to 2007, told BBC Radio 4's The Investigation that the government is placing too much emphasis on wind power to reach the target and this would mean more people suffering from fuel poverty. "These are difficult numbers to estimate but numbers around half a million are not at all unrealistic," he said.

Professor King said he thought that Mr Blair and the other EU leaders did not understand what they were committing themselves to. "I think there was some degree of confusion at the heads of states meeting dealing with this. "If they had said 20% renewables on the electricity grids across the European Union by 2020, we would have had a realistic target but by saying 20% of all energy, I actually wonder whether that wasn't a mistake." Professor King, who was chief scientific adviser at the time of the decision, added: "I was rather surprised when I heard what the decision was."

The EU needed to renegotiate a more achievable and less expensive target, and he added: "This is an issue which needs to be revisited and I say this as somebody who feels that we really have to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions very substantially but in my view it is an expensive, and not a very clever route to go for 35 to 40% on wind turbines."

However Maria McCaffery, Chief Executive of British Wind Energy Association countered: "We don't have to pay for wind power it just comes to us naturally and is totally sustainable. "The expectation is that it will in time drive down the basic cost of energy and actually help the fuel poverty situation, that certainly is our expectation"

A government spokesman said it believes the target is ambitious but is fully committed to meeting it and that the impact on energy bills in the short term will be small.


A drug for everything

Bad, quirky and obsessive behaviour is not new. Now there's a drug for everything - but is that the answer? Spending too much time on the internet? Worried about a low sex drive, shyness or lack of social skills? Or do you lose your temper too easily, blush too readily or spend too much time and money shopping?

There was a time when such behaviours might have been regarded as individual differences, or put down to lack of self-control and restraint. But not any more. Increasing numbers of behavioural conditions are being treated with drug therapy. Bereavement issues, blushing, low sex drive, high sex drive, sex addiction, lack of orgasm, gambling, fear of public speaking, stealing, domestic violence and phobias are all being targeted with drugs that are either in clinical trials or already available.

For drug companies, this market is potentially huge. It is claimed, for example, that almost half of women have a sexual problem. Nearly 8 per cent of adults, it seems, have intermittent explosive disorder; another 8 per cent are compulsive shoppers. Thirteen to 15 per cent are said to be social phobics, and up to 10 per cent have a fear of public speaking. On top of that are gamblers, phobics and the depressed - all suitable cases for treatment.

But critics argue that some of these treatments amount to medicalisation of individual differences and traits. Unlike physiological diseases such as cancer, behaviour disorders are a grey area, with no clear boundary between normality and illness. People at the extreme end need treatment, but others who may have symptoms may not.

Another problem is defining symptoms of some conditions. Take intermittent explosive disorder, the definition of which seems to defy even people in the field. "It is a vaguely defined condition for which effective treatments have not been identified," say researchers at the University of Chicago who have been involved in one drug trial.

One of the major areas for trials of new drugs is sexual problems. Reports have suggested that one in three women have low sex drive - and one drug trial has involved women whose symptoms include failure to achieve orgasm in half of their sexual encounters.

Professor Graham Hart, of the University of Glasgow, co-author of a paper on this issue in the British Medical Journal, says that the imperative now is for more and better sexual gratification. "Celibacy is the new deviance," he says. "The problem with such an overly medical approach to sexual behaviour is that social and interpersonal dynamics may be ignored.

"People choose one another for their uniqueness. The last century saw a considerable increase in acceptance of diversity of sexual expression - it would be a shame if this century saw diversity replaced by uniform expectations of performance and desire."

At the University of East Anglia, Dr Ray Crozier, an expert on shyness, makes a similar case about the medicalisation of blushing. He argues that, in many cases, there is nothing inherently wrong, painful or unhealthy about blushing, yet it is treated both with surgery and drugs. More often than not, he says, the problem is in the eye of the perceiver.

"Shame and embarrassment are powerful experiences that lead people to find a way to escape from them," he says. "But anxiety about blushing is not caused by inherent properties of the blush, and something important would be lost if blushing were eradicated."

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