9 February 2022: Digital dunces rise up; Cava v. Prosecco; Reappearing walls; Daft car names; & Other stuff.

Night’s candles are burnt out, and jocund day stands tiptoe on the misty mountain tops

Spanish life is not always likeable but it is compellingly loveable
Christopher Howse: ‘A Pilgrim in Spain’

Cosas de España/Galiza

Spain’s drive to use the internet to move rapidly from the 19th to the 21st century is, not surprisingly, leaving some confused folk behind. The so-called ‘digital divide’. Heres news of a chap who’s championing those who want face-to-face service. 

On this, I do wonder how many other countries make so much use of digital certificates as Spain does. I’ve never found the process of getting them easy. And I fear I’ve ended up with 2 for the Tax Office. Though, fortunately, I haven’t needed either of them to pay my speeding fines to the voracious Tráfico. Two already this year. And I’m someone who tries hard to stick within the limits. Seriously.

The Spanish ambassador to the UK advises that a good Spanish cava is far superior to the sort of cheap prosecco so widely available in British supermarkets. He recommends Codorníu. Not being fond of fizz/bubbly, I can’t comment.

This is an old diagram of Pontevedra’s medieval walls:-

I cite it because – despite the fact that location of the walls wasn’t a secret – the protests against the siting of a funeral home (tanatorio) in the top left hand corner of the old city proved pointless a couple of years ago when initial digging came across said remains and had to be stopped. What made it all the more astonishing that this had come as a surprise was that visible remains of the old walls both before and after the corner made it inevitable more would be discovered there. Perhaps the promoters/builders assumed all the stones had been filched. Or just didn’t care and hoped to get away with it. Anyway, here’s what that corner looks these days:-

The proposed tanatorio would have been behind the red fence on the right. On the left, you can see a wire fence around excavated bits of the medieval walls. Also discovered by accident when some planned road changes had to be cancelled. It does make one wonder . . .

Here’s another pretty flower/weed:-

This one likes the cracks in pavement and granite walls. I think it’s one of 2 plants called Japanese knotweed. As I like it, I’ve put some in my front garden, to see if it will climb up a wall that isn’t cracked. I suspect not.

Maria is getting better. And bored.

The UK 

Richard North writes here of the future use of smart meters to ration electricity usage.

And the article below takes up the theme of the apparently inevitable consequences of the ‘lunacy of net zero’.

The Way of the World

Professional tattooists in France have increased from 400 to 4,000 in a decade, and now want to be officially recognised as a profession, like accountants or notaries.


Hmm. ‘Lighted’ is oft pronounced ‘lit’. But ‘highlighted’ is never pronounced ‘highlit’ – cf. ‘backlit’. Daft language.

Finally . . .

Dacia(Renault) sell cars named Bigster, Logan and Duster. And I swear I’ve seen one in town called  Edgy. But I can find no supportive evidence on the net. Am I seeing things?

For new reader(s): If you’ve landed here looking for info on Galicia or Pontevedra, try here


Britain needs a new dash for gas to save us from the lunacy of net zero: Boris will be to blame if energy policy continues down the route of surging prices and rationing: Philip Johnston, Telegraph

For an industry facing an existential crisis in order to forestall global warming, oil and gas companies are performing remarkably well. BP announced profits of £9.5 billion shortly after Shell posted what it called “momentous” record annual takings. These huge sums are a function of the restart of the world economy after the pandemic shutdowns but are pretty mind-boggling none the less. For the green lobby they indicate that more needs to be done and faster to expedite the move to non-carbon fuel sources.

For the rest of us, however, they demonstrate that the UK’s rush to achieve net zero is not being followed by the rest of the world and cannot be sustained here without a massive public backlash. The baleful consequences of this policy are finally beginning to dawn on the Government. As we reported yesterday, final approval is to be granted for six new North Sea oil and gas fields, the first sensible decision on meeting the country’s energy needs taken for at least three decades.

It also gives the lie to the claim that investment in new fields was halted for economic considerations when the principal objections were environmental. For the same reason, the Government should lift the ban on fracking.

The prospect of new licences in the North Sea marks a significant political push-back against net zero, with Rishi Sunak, the Chancellor, and Kwasi Kwarteng, the Business Secretary, seemingly determined to make the policy more rational and voter-friendly. Some of the more unrealistic targets for phasing out petrol cars or banning gas boilers need to be revisited as well.

In any case, the UK is able to claim a fall in CO2 emissions in part because it outsources them elsewhere. Refusing to exploit our own reserves of gas while importing it from countries that have no renewable energy to speak of is mendacious. Continuing to import goods from countries that still burn vast amounts of coal surely does not help the planet in any way.

In these circumstances, it is idiotic to withhold approval to exploit Britain’s own oil and gas supplies in the North Sea, even if it does turn out to be the last hurrah for what was once seen as the nation’s economic salvation.

History repeats itself. The arrival of natural gas in the 1960s required the conversion of around 14 million households previously reliant on so-called town gas produced by burning coal. The newcomer was cleaner, cheaper and less noxious. A similar upheaval is envisaged to remove gas boilers and install energy efficient heat pumps. Some 85% of the UK’s 29 million homes are heated by gas-fired boilers and the Government wants about one million to be replaced every year by 2030 compared to just 60,000 last year.

How can this be brought about? The answer is that it can’t, not least because the engineers are not available and the costs to homeowners already hit by soaring energy bills are too high. It is estimated that 60,000 qualified plumbers will be needed to meet 2028 installation targets – yet just 1,800 have the correct training today. The new pumps will also be expensive, about £8,000-£10,000 for a typical three-bed home.

Even if costs are brought down, this is a sizeable outlay. In another market intervention, the Government is now offering incentives for people to switch and seeking to force boiler-makers to sell a certain proportion of heat pumps to “help create the conditions for rapid innovation”.

Amid all this lunacy comes evidence that the proposed move to greater electrification risks power cuts without significant changes in behaviour (leave aside what might happen if supplies are affected by a war in eastern Europe or the Gulf or both). From this week, households are to be paid to ration their power usage at peak times to relieve pressure on the National Grid as part of a trial to encourage people to charge cars and use appliances at different times during the day and night. That is why we were all being urged to switch to smart meters and move to special tariffs, though these have now been scuppered by the rise in prices.

All in all, our energy policy has been an unmitigated mess for decades, with incessant governmental interference in the market and a failure to invest in nuclear power and fracking leaving us dangerously exposed to price hikes and supply crunches. The driving force behind most of our problems is the 2050 net zero target now underpinned by statute law and international treaty commitments.

Every political party is signed up to this, as are most countries in the world, even though few expect it to happen. Here, the politics are potentially toxic as people see bills rise, costs increase, supplies diminish and sanctions applied while the biggest CO2 producers carry on burning oil and coal. Labour may be just as culpable for this but the governing party always gets the blame.

Since natural gas accounts for more than half our primary energy consumption – and yet we import more than half of what we require – reviving North Sea investment is a no-brainer. Even the EU now recognises gas as a sustainable energy source to be used in the transition to a low carbon future.

It will take time to get new rigs running, which is not going to help alleviate the Government’s immediate problems. But international instability shows that we need to secure our energy supplies in the long-term through exploiting (and storing) our own gas reserves, moving to hydrogen, investing in small nuclear reactors, expanding carbon capture and storage, and lifting the moratorium on fracking.

There are signs that, apart from shale, this prudent mix is beginning to come together but it will need the Government to stand up to the green lobby in a way that it has so far been unwilling to do. We can move to a lower carbon future, but to do so by impoverishing the country and risking its energy supplies is madness.

Moreover, it is feeding into the debate around Boris Johnson’s future. Many Tory MPs are less concerned about lockdown parties or injudicious remarks concerning Sir Keir Starmer’s prosecution record than the impact of high energy prices on the incomes of their constituents. The Prime Minister would be wise to back the Chancellor and the Business Secretary in a new dash for gas.


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