Should the Lib Dems be supporting the ban on patio heaters?

by Stephen Tall on January 31, 2008

It’s a big day for patio heater manufacturers, as the European Parliament looks set to approve a Lib Dem-inspired measure which would see the faddish appliances phased out, along with electrical stand-by modes, and minimum standards set for energy efficiency on air-conditioning, television “decoder” boxes and light bulbs.

Lib Dem MEP Fiona Hall is behind the initiative (which has no legal force). You can read her report in full here. Here’s an extract:

Latest scientific evidence suggests that the world has as little as eight years to tackle global warming. If global temperatures rise more than 2ºC above pre-industrial levels, climate change is predicted to spiral out of control.
Energy efficiency is the most cost effective and immediately available tool in the battle to cap greenhouse gas emissions. A wide range of energy efficient technology already exists and can be introduced with a much shorter lead-in time than is required for major new construction projects.
Energy efficiency is also a crucial tool in the EU’s efforts to secure adequate supplies of energy, particularly for those Member States currently dependent on Russian gas. Nor should the importance of energy efficiency in supplier countries be overlooked: the IEA estimates that energy equivalent to a fifth of Russian exports to European OECD countries could be saved through the use of enhanced technology and energy efficiency in Russia.
In addition, energy efficiency has an important role to play in delivering the Lisbon agenda: energy efficiency equates to economic efficiency. The energy efficiency industry is a high growth sector for employment, with building renovation at the forefront of job creation. …
Strategic regulation on energy efficiency is absolutely necessary. Although energy intensity has improved in the EU since 1990 it has not improved enough to counter the year on year rise in GDP, with the result that final energy consumption has nevertheless risen. Trading of carbon emissions now offers a key global tool in tackling climate change but there is no evidence or precedent for market mechanisms alone delivering to a short deadline. To achieve energy saving on the timescale necessary to control climate change requires consumer choice to be exercised within a restricted range of options which are increasingly energy efficient.
[…]
Both the Commission and Member State governments have been guilty of a serious dereliction of duty over the implementation of energy efficiency legislation. The Commission has failed to put in place the number of staff necessary to ensure full and timely implementation of the Buildings Directive and National Energy Efficiency Action Plans, the cornerstones on which the current EU Action Plan rests. Member States are culpable for failing to grasp the strategic importance of energy efficiency and the need to make it a political priority.
It falls now to the European Parliament to give the political leadership that has been lacking in the other two institutions. EU elected representatives need to keep the fullest glare of scrutiny on the Action Plan, both through the European Parliament and through national parliaments and watchdogs such as Energy Watch, to make sure that the Plan is implemented in full and on schedule.

The Guardian meanwhile quotes climate change expert, Dr Eric Johnson, a national expert reviewer for the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, who argues:

The overall impact of outdoor heaters on global warming and greenhouse gas emissions is very minimal, and once you look at the domestic models used in homes, the impact is almost non-existent. Once comparisons start with well-known offenders such as airplanes, outdoor heaters dwarf in comparison. In actual fact, plasma TVs produce far more CO2 than patio heaters when you compare normal usage patterns. What constitutes a waste of energy is always going to be open to debate but it is important that the public is properly educated about environmental impacts in order to make informed decisions on their everyday activities.”

So, is this a case of Europe and the Lib Dems calling for unnecessary ‘hairshirt’ regulation which will have little real impact? Or is it a case of our party being the only one willing to put its head above the parapet to urge practical measures which will address global warming?

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66 comments

LB wrote: “Repeated medical trials have failed to prove the efficacy of this remedy.”

When you want to tell a lie and deceive the public, use an unattributable quote.

You should get a job with an advertising agency, Laurence.

by Sesenco on February 2, 2008 at 12:46 am. Reply #

Wahey! I’ve just made another enemy! But it’s not an unattributable quote. In fact I can tell you exactly what the source is.

Me!

That’s right. It’s just my own suggestion for what might go on the tin of a homeopathic remedy. But of course I’m always open to debate and negotiation. What would your suggested label be? How about:

“Beats cancer every single time.”

I would have to concede that my line now looks a bit leaden by comparison.

by Laurence Boyce on February 2, 2008 at 2:29 am. Reply #

Has anyone noticed that this thread has adverts for patio heaters at the foot?

Has Fiona called for the abolition of flights from Newcastle and Durham to Brussels? After all, there is or was a ship across that route that people from the NE could use. If we were a “let’s ban it party” then those flights would seem like things to ban.

by tim leunig on February 2, 2008 at 10:39 am. Reply #

The Google ads can be the source of much consternation. For instance, my anti-religious blasts invariably seem to attract adverts from various evangelical organisations. Suffice it to say that I would be absolutely mortified if anyone ever “came to Jesus” as a result of one of my articles.

by Laurence Boyce on February 2, 2008 at 1:54 pm. Reply #

True, but if several people were to click on those links out of, say, curiosity, then by fortutous happenstance LDV gets money to pay hosting bills at the expense of certain fringe groups that we’re not that keen on.

As an adsence user, it would be against my terms of contract to encourage people to click the links in order to simply make the site money, that would be wrong. But, y’know, if you’re curious about what their message is…

by MatGB on February 2, 2008 at 2:08 pm. Reply #

Heh, the patio heater site link resolves to a 404, go to their homepage and the search engine doesn’t work with Firefox. So my curiosity about prices cannot be assuaged and they’re pyaing money for no benefit.

by MatGB on February 2, 2008 at 2:11 pm. Reply #

Joking apart, I really can’t see why the eco-warriors are so exercised over patio heaters. What with temperatures projected to rise sharply over the next decade, before too long nobody will be buying them anyway.

by Laurence Boyce on February 2, 2008 at 8:17 pm. Reply #

LB wrote: “What would your suggested label be?”

The facts.

by Sesenco on February 2, 2008 at 11:01 pm. Reply #

The facts about homeopathy. Sounds good to me. Now what would they be “Sesenco”?

by Laurence Boyce on February 3, 2008 at 11:31 am. Reply #

Banning patio heaters is nothing more than cheap gesture politics. Won’t make a blind bit of difference to climate change. It will make a few hairshirters feel better about themselves but that’s it.

And – though this is irrelevant to the patio heater issue – homeopathy is, in my view, absolute nonsense. It is – fact – water.

by LiberalHammer on February 4, 2008 at 11:29 am. Reply #

Banning patio heaters is just another example of a small, pretty much pointless, gesture that can lull us into a false sense of security.

There are lots of little things I can do in my own life to slightly reduce my carbon footprint. Some of them are easy, save me money or make no real difference to me so I’m happy to do them. Others make my life a little harder or deprive me of a luxury I rather enjoy, so I don’t.

What they all have in common is that they make no measurable impact on global warming, and still wouldn’t even if everyone did the same.

If people choose to do this stuff then great. If, by regulating manufacture, we can get more environmentally-friendly goods without asking consumers to wear a hair-shirt, even better.

But banning things like patio-heaters manages to achieve the worst of all worlds: it annoys people because the EU is banning something they genuinely like and find beneficial; it gets people thinking “I’m doing my bit for the environment by giving up my patio heater, so I don’t need to do more” whilst actually making sod all different to global warming. (Not to mention the effect on manufacturers of patio heaters).

by Iain Roberts on February 4, 2008 at 11:58 am. Reply #

To me, the corollary of most of the sentiments here is that we should be standing up for genuine liberal values and telling people that they are perfectly at liberty to use patio heaters if they want. We should not be supporting a ban. This is perfectly consistent with saying that they are a bad idea and trying to disuade people from using them. Dissuade, not ban. Joe Otten’s views would be more at home in the Green Party.

by David Wray on February 8, 2008 at 12:26 pm. Reply #

David @62.

Miaow.

Can you quote me where I supported this ban?

And by all means persuade individuals. I’m sure that there are millions of us in this society who don’t feel lectured at enough.

But please face the fact that businesses have a duty to respond to raw incentives and ignore lecturing.

by Joe Otten on February 8, 2008 at 12:55 pm. Reply #

@ David, rereading Joe’s posts within the thread and following his links, his approach is the liberal approach and one the Greens probably would be less keen on.

The liberal approach should be to allow people to do as they wish, but ensure that a) they make an informed choice when doing so and b) the full costs of their actions are paid for, not just the monetary costs of their product.

In other words, a pigouvian tax on the externalities of the fuel burnt, etc. Which is what I proposed earlier and Joe has linked to. That’s not an illiberal ban, it’s allowing people to make an informed choice. Which is the heart of modern liberalism unless I’ve missed something.

by MatGB on February 8, 2008 at 1:31 pm. Reply #

Priceless.

by Laurence Boyce on February 17, 2008 at 4:07 am. Reply #

Big Brother Is Watching You..

And if you don’t behave according to Lib Dem principles.. He will ‘apport’ you to the ‘proper authorities’…

Nice to say Google also has some useful adverts on this topic as well…

by Big Brother on February 17, 2008 at 11:22 am. Reply #

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