Monthly Archives: January 2008

Nuclear energy's unsuspected ally

The bandwagon of man-made climate change has all sorts of passengers, and seems to be the ideal pretext for just about anything nowadays.

The UK Government announced this week that the UK will begin building nuclear power plants again.

Nuclear energy has bad press for several reasons, including health concerns for nearby residents, difficult disposal of nuclear waste, and the danger of malfunction in the plant. There’s widespread opposition throughout Europe to building new nuclear power stations. Even UK’s announcement this week has been criticized by some groups.

However, what is unusual in the arguments to defend the construction of new nuclear power plants? The fight against climate change is publicized as the first reason that citizens should take into account to back nuclear energy. (references: UK government and the Foreword in White Paper on nuclear power)

The backing of nuclear energy sources with the argumentation that it helps curb climate change could be due to one of the following:

  1. either the UK government truly believes that man is causing climate change,
  2. or because “man-made climate change” (true or not) is in the minds of the population, it is very easy to exploit this fear to easily sell them any “solution” to climate change.

If option (1) is the case, humans are deceiving themselves in thinking that they have the capacity to influence Earth’s climate, and that they will also have an influence to “restore” climate.

Thankfully, I believe the real situation is (2): Humans are no fools, but rather manipulative beings who know that the illusion of fighting “climate change” is effective marketing to sell otherwise unpopular strategies, like the use of nuclear energy. That’s not to say, however, that it’s OK for Governments to deceive people with lies like man-made climate change.

The UK Government’s decision to promote the construction of new nuclear power stations is the correct one (it’s an affordable, dependable and efficient source of energy). No less important is the strategic relevance to make a country more self-sufficient in energy production, reducing dependency on external sources. I can only wish Spain would promote nuclear energy as well, but without resorting to the false and silly excuse of saving humans from climate change.

(Other related Megaspora entries: Climate Change, Inc., Eco-hype)

Zapatero's Smile for Morocco

Numerous reports on TV, radio and the press would require an analysis and revision to correct the distorted pictures of reality they convey.

One such example is the night newscast in Spanish TV channel “Cuatro”, of January 5th, 2008, reporting on the return of the Moroccan ambassador in Spain. Just a quick background note: After an official visit in November 2007 by the King and Queen of Spain to the Spanish cities of Ceuta and Melilla (located on the north coast of Morocco), Morocco complained that the visit was a provocation (they claim Ceuta and Melilla are their territory). The Moroccan ambassador to Spain was recalled from Madrid.

The news piece last night argued that this diplomatic incident has been the only one between Spain and Morocco during the current term of Spanish PM Rodríguez Zapatero, boasting that diplomatic tensions between both countries has been far less during Rodríguez Zapatero‘s term than during the previous PM’s (Aznar‘s) term.

Specifically, the news report pointed to several incidents during Aznar‘s term:

  • Tensions between Spain and Morocco related to fishing-grounds
  • Spain’s position with respect to Sahara
  • Spain and Europe bound illegal immigration, originating in Morocco
  • The culmination of those incidents with the Moroccan occupation of the Perejil island.

whereas, highlighting the lack of conflict and the good management of Rodríguez Zapatero, the news piece states that during his term, there has only been one diplomatic hiccup with Morocco:

  • The recall of the Moroccan ambassador from Spain, after the Spanish Royal visit to Ceuta and Melilla.

In other words: “Cuatro” newscast brings up diplomatic problems in a previous presidential term, to downplay the one incident that took place under Rodríguez Zapatero‘s term in office. What we see here is standard tactics by channel “Cuatro” and related media, focused in a continuous publicity campaign to erode and discredit former PM Aznar and his Popular Party (PP). This campaign is an important vote catalyst for the PSOE (Socialist Party), which obtains its largest support when they succeed in making people think of the “danger” of the PP or Aznar returning to office, rather than gaining support based on the results of their own time in office.

Moreover, this news piece dares to suggest that diplomatic relations with Morocco should have been free of tensions, regardless of Moroccan actions or decisions. This would have been possible had Aznar remained an spectator before Morocco, as b>Rodríguez Zapatero did. The current president had not few issues to attend to, but of course he chose to smile rather than: (i) defending the rights of Moroccans themselves before human trafficking mafias (tightly linked to illegal immigration), (ii) exhorting Morocco to play active collaboration in the investigation of the Madrid bombings of March 11th 2004, (iii) defending the interests of the Sahara people before Morocco, (iv) defending the Spanish territory rather than appearing in public next to Moroccan maps showing Ceuta and Melilla as Moroccan cities, to name a few of these issues.

Undoubtedly Rodríguez Zapatero avoids conflict, as “Cuatro” very well points out; what they are not saying is how the smile tactic brings no solution to the problems and issues affecting Spanish interests, and the interests of people in Spain and Morocco.

Good and bad smoking bans

With the start of 2008, France has joined Italy and Ireland in a complete ban to smoking in restaurants and bars. Thankfully they have not followed the smoking regulation model started in Spain, which gives small bar/restaurant owners the choice of becoming a smoking or a non-smoking space.

Smoking bans are always perceived differently from two different points of view: the health point of view and the ‘comfort’ (or annoyance) point of view.

Taking health into account, and according to the law itself, the goal of smoking bans is to reduce tobacco consumption to reduce health risks, and to reduce exposure of workers to tobacco smoke. (It can be argued whether smoking is really a health risk or not, although I believe it is). The smoking ban in workplaces (introduced in Spain only in January 2006) is aimed at protecting workers from tobacco smoke of their smoker co-workers. This measure was long overdue in Spain and we can finally enjoy smoke-free office workspaces. However, bar and restaurant workers are not as lucky: the Spanish law does not protect them, as it makes each business decide: smoke-free or not. This ambiguous law looks after some workers while ignoring others.

From the point of view of ‘comfort’, a large part of society would be happier with smoke-free environments simply because the absence of smoke means absence of bad smell in the air and in one’s clothes. Obviously, people are free to stay away from tobacco-friendly bars and restaurants, but the Spanish law has not helped to create smoke-free spaces.

Because in Spain going smoke-free is optional for small bars and restaurants, some of them choose to stay smoke-friendly, to ensure they won’t loose smoking customers to the bar next door, which may have chosen to stay smoke-friendly. It is a matter of competition. It is natural that an optional measure like this one drives the vast majority of bars and restaurants to choose the option which does not damage their business. Should the law impose a smoking ban on all bars and restaurants, the regulation would be equal for all businesses, enabling fair competition, since none can allow smoking in their premises. Obviously, if smoking is allowed everywhere, competition would be equally fair, but this would mean failure for the Spanish tobacco law, which intends to curb tobacco consumption in workplaces, not keep it up.

However, what about the people who cannot go without their cigarette when having their coffee? Or can they?

The “cafe culture” in France, claimed to be under attack by the new smoking ban, is not unique to France. It is equally popular in Spain, Italy or Ireland. The two latter have banned smoking, causing no impact on the “cafe culture”. I am certain that France will experience equal adaptation to the smoking ban, and people will continue to have their coffee, but without the smoke.

Congratulations to the French. Spain should follow suit, and implement a proper smoking ban on all restaurants and bars. The current tobacco laws in Spain smell of half-baked compromise to implement the health protection measures in bars, while avoiding aggravating smokers. Experience in Italy, Ireland and also in the U.S. shows that the ban on smoking causes no aggravation, and is even welcome by many smokers.