Clifford on incineration

Michael Clifford is not impressed by the Minister of the Environment, arguing that a minister should follow or change government policy (rather than oppose it) and that a minister of the environment should seek what is best for the environment (which, in this case, is implementing government policy).

He might have added the damage to Ireland’s reputation as a place where contracts are upheld, but I agree otherwise. See here, here, here and here.

UPDATE: Scott Whitney (of Covanta) too agrees and adds some more information.

31 thoughts on “Clifford on incineration”

  1. Quite apart from a legitimate debate regarding incineration can you expand on what you mean by “damage to Ireland’s reputation as a place where contracts are upheld”

    A trip down to the HIgh Court will reveal that quite a few contracts are not being upheld in this country. You only have to look over the fence at the Glass Bottle site to see that.

    Ireland the land where contracts are upheld seems to be the same country where property can never fall in value.

    As I have said before Ireland doesn’t have a contract with anyone in relation to the incinerator so what would the reputational damage be? The risks of DCC entering this contract were well flagged when they signed it.

  2. @Paul
    This is becoming repetitive. There is a contract between Dublin and Covanta that is fully consistent with national policy, and a minister who does what he can to make sure that the contract is not implemented. The reputational damage is that the government does not respect contracts or its own policies on waste and local government.

    The fact that other contracts were broken does not make it right to break a contract.

  3. @RT: Governments are sovereign – right? They do as they please (for all the Real Political reasons!).

    As the man said, “Promises (even legally enforcable contracts) are given according to motive, but are fulfilled according to circumstances”.

    We DO NOT need incineration of waste. We just need to ‘go back to some basics’ and consume less of what we manifestly DO NOT really need. Waste-load will decline in parallel. QED. Try the simple things first.

    Was in a fancy Dept Store (well, several) recently. Thousands of items for sale that were neither essential nor necessary. We need to get a firm grip on this madness.

    B Peter

  4. @ Brian Woods

    “We just need to ‘go back to some basics’ and consume less of what we manifestly DO NOT really need.”

    That’s a tad simplistic and impractical/unworkable. Also lay off the caps lock; it doesn’t make your point any more poignant.

  5. @MarcusOC: Simple work Marcus. Always has, always will. Remember them Dinosaurs? Where be they now??

    CL: No understand your comment! I use for emphasis – like waving a hand. This IS the Blogsphere!

    We do need to deal with ‘waste’. One way is NOT to generate same! or a tad less! In other words, you make a concious decision to neither manufacture or produce products that have some element of un-necessary items associated with them (bubble wrap or plastic containers, etc). Carboard, corrugated paper or other cellulose based wrapping is fine. Just cut out the fossil fuel based waste. Concentrate on re-cycling the metals, batteries, electronic components and other re-usables (where this is chemically feasible).

    Not so difficult once you dump your Business-as-Usual economic Model-in-Use. But can you? (or we?). Permagrowth model is dying. We desperately need a Transition Model.

    Incineration is the last resort of a failing technical intellect.

    Thanks for your comments.

    B Peter.

  6. @ Richard Tol,

    Interesting article, thanks for highlighting it.

    I fear Ireland is back once again doing what Ireland does best, making a dogs dinner of something which should be kept simple and straightforward.

    Land fill horrifies me as there is serious danger of polluting aquifers and hence our drinking water supply. The country is not that big so we need to look after it. As we all know there is a serious water shortage problem for Dublin on the near horizon.

    However the idea of increasing the levy on waste disposal just further erodes our ability to hold our existing industry and attract more industry to remain in Ireland.

    We should be looking at ways and means to reduce the cost of doing business and living in Ireland, not trying to make the country more expensive.

    As I mentioned before at times it seems there are forces at work trying to undermine the country.

  7. the damage to Ireland’s reputation as a place where contracts are upheld

    As others note, Dublin City Council != the Government of Ireland.

    That this blog has become a vehicle for what appears to be a long-running feud between certain people in ESRI and the Greens is unfortunate (not least because the Greens don’t appear to have guest posting privileges here to offer refutations).

  8. @ BW

    Why does the minister not change the policy overtly instead of undermining it by subterfuge?
    So how much does the TAXPAYER have to FORK OUT to bail out your minister and save his seat?

    Maybe we should solve this issue by a tax on all environmentalists. Anti incineration is a “good” that they value more than the populace. Perhaps something like the Church Tax in Germany COULD BE CONSIDERED.

  9. @ Sporthog

    We should be looking at ways and means to reduce the cost of doing business and living in Ireland

    I completely agree. Perhaps someone from ESRI can do us up a nice little study on the costs to competitiveness of letting Granny live past retirement age – any takers ?

  10. @EWI

    The environment would be far better off if there were less people in employment with less income to spend on useless services and goods. We would not need to travel around on Ryanair polluting the atmosphere etc etc.

    We would be poor and happy. Nothing to do all day but go down to the cross roads for a bit of dancing etc and a bit of pursuit of athletic conquest.

  11. @ EWI,

    Quid pro pro, I don’t see space for economists to blog on the green party site etiher. But lets not get into a slagging match between economists and environmentalists. We should both have the country’s best interests at heart.

    No matter what way you look at it waste is part of reality, it will not go away on its own. It has to be dealt with in a responsible manner. Shipping plastic waste to China still involves burning a fossil fuel to get it there. If the western world has the technology then why does China have the jobs? We should be using best practice and technology to maintain jobs in the western hemisphere, trying to keep ahead of the curve, not exporting jobs to Asia.

    We have already increased tax on petrol in emergency budget March 2009, now a carbon tax on motor fuel and oil is currently north of $85 a barrel and still climbing. At a time when the country is on its knees I do wonder if we will ever be able to get off them with the cost of doing business here.

    By the way what methods do you have for recycling granny? I might need your assistance later….

  12. @ Tull Mcadoo,

    Dancing at the crossroads!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! So just what the hell was going on at Hackballscross??????????????

    Don’t tell me, the thought of it is just too painful.

  13. @ Sporthog

    No matter what way you look at it waste is part of reality, it will not go away on its own. It has to be dealt with in a responsible manner.

    Waste is an unfortunate by-product of a consumer society, obviously. The solution to this problem seems clear enough from first principles – reduce the amount of it, and deal in a responsible manner with what’s left. The incinerator approach seems to me to be dis-incentivising the first and pursuing only the second (and causing adverse effects on other fields where we’re trying for progress – namely, reducing pollution and reducing carbon emissions).

    At a time when the country is on its knees I do wonder if we will ever be able to get off them with the cost of doing business here.

    I prefer to take a rather more positive view – that a more rigorous approach will only spur efficiency and innovation, and can lead to exportable technology and skills in these fields (as others have argued before, and with pretty easy examples to find).

    By the way what methods do you have for recycling granny? I might need your assistance later….

    Luxury leather goods are still selling well in D4-land, I suspect.

  14. @ tull mcadoo

    The environment would be far better off if there were less people in employment with less income to spend on useless services and goods. We would not need to travel around on Ryanair polluting the atmosphere etc etc.

    No idea who you’re tilting at here (I am not a Green Party member. In fact, the only party membership that I’ve ever had… was FF, and that only as an occasional family obligation these days).

    We would be poor and happy. Nothing to do all day but go down to the cross roads for a bit of dancing etc and a bit of pursuit of athletic conquest.

    A bit of exercise would no doubt do you some good?

  15. @All

    Timing is everything. GP has gone Grianna Fail. Slow, principled ascent – and once in power, instantaneous combustion of all principles, proved in the vote last Tuesday, Minister Ryan’s reckless blatantly inaccurate spinnins, and the cute-hoor timing of this blatant abuse of GP power in penalising incineration for purely personal ends.

    “On Monday, Gormley’s campaign entered a new phase with the publication of a draft environmental bill. He is proposing a levy on waste for incineration of up to €120 per tonne. This is 12 times higher than the levy recommended by the ESRI, and nearly five times higher than that proposed by consultants Gormley himself commissioned to review waste policy.”

    GP – GO NOW. Do this state some service.

  16. @DOD

    We might as well give up then. The GP will strangle the economy. Moreover, if Gormley is willing to waste tens of millions in penalties for breach of contract on incineration he is more damaging to the body politic than anything CJH ever did.

  17. Moreover, if Gormley is willing to waste tens of millions in penalties for breach of contract on incineration he is more damaging to the body politic than anything CJH ever did.

    My, my.

    i) what short memories we all have. “Tens of millions in penalties” are an old one for FF – including EU fines for waste disposal, iirc.

    ii) “more damaging to the body politic than anything CJH ever did”. Where to start?

  18. @Brian Woods
    The government is not sovereign. The Oireachtas is.

    It is odd that a minister campaigns against the policies of his own department. It would be much more effective if the minister used his considerable powers to change those policies — but perhaps he reckons he does not have the required majority, or he thinks that the procedures of policy making are too long-winded.

  19. @EWI

    When Lemass died – the ‘republican’ bit of FiannaFail died with him.

    The foundations of the present catastrophe may be dated from the contest between Colley and Haughey – and one must also include Lynch due to the 1977 debacle: it has been ‘rogue’ since then (with a few individual exceptions) in placing its interests ahead of public interest and Irish citizenry. FF had 50 yrs 1927-1977 with some claim to ‘republican ideals’ – the public simply has not copped it on yet …….. it is now well over 30 yrs past its burial date as Labour, PD, & GP foolishly propping it up ……. This Political Class has failed us abysmally – what an affront to common decency to see them outside the GPO yesterday ……….

  20. @ David O’Donnell

    I completely agree with you, and it’s the reason that I want nothing to do with them in spite of substantial family history (on both sides).

  21. I’m not sure whether discussions of where sovereignty lies in Ireland are relevant to the discussion here, but to be accurate, the Oireachtas is not sovereign. The people are sovereign.

    From the Irish Constitution:
    Article 1
    The Irish nation hereby affirms its inalienable, indefeasible, and sovereign right to choose its own form of Government, to determine its relations with other nations, and to develop its life, political, economic and cultural, in accordance with its own genius and traditions.

    Article 6
    1. All powers of government, legislative, executive and judicial, derive, under God, from the people, whose right it is to designate the rulers of the State and, in final appeal, to decide all questions of national policy, according to the requirements of the common good.

  22. @Richard.
    I like Michael Clifford but he clearly knows nothing about waste mgt.
    ”Exporting waste costs three times as much as getting rid of it at home.
    The EU has placed limits on how much landfill can be used, and the state is fast approaching the limit.
    After that, fines running into millions will be imposed.
    Unless the citizens are willing to stump up considerably more tax, incineration will be as much a feature of waste disposal here as it is in practically every other developed country in the world”

    There has never been and will never be a need to export municipal waste. We export hazardous waste at present some of which should be incinerated. This has nothing to do with poolbeg.
    The EU has put a cap on landfilling biodegradable waste. The landfilling of stabilised and inert wastes in modern engineered landfilled is a perfectly legal way of disposing of residual waste.
    I have shown before that fines are not fast approaching
    On cost, Michael doen’t know what the cost for DCC will be. If exporting it were the only alternative I would think he would most likely be right.

  23. Where do poopy nappies (60,000 babies x Ages 0 – 3 x 2+ per day x 365 = 175,200,000 per year) and, ahem, sanitary towels fit in to the incinerate / landfill / recycle / don’t use debate?…

  24. The people delegate their sovereignty to the Oireachtas between elections, but, in reality, governments which are elected by the Dail – and which maintain a Dail majority – exercise executive dominance.

    This is a fundamental problem in all parliamentary democracies – and Ireland suffers more than most, but it is not what is at issue here. In broad terms it appears that Government policy in this area is in the public interest. The problem is that a Minister is undermining the implementation of this policy.

    Since the Minister is conflicted he should recuse himself from decision-making in this matter and transfer respobsibility to the Taoiseach.

  25. so who forms government policy? Companies like Covanta? The Golden O’Reilly’s?
    The ESRI (Tol) has certainly had its own problems identifying a distance between government and industry, surely the new Church and State conflict.

  26. UPDATE: Scott Whitney (of Covanta) too agrees and adds some more information.

    He agrees? How strange.

  27. @ RT: Thanks for the correction. What I had in mind was – and someone raised it above, is that the Gov can, and will, if circumstances dictate – welch on any promise (legal or otherwise) that they may have given.

    We do not need incineration. I am not against the technology – we just do not need it. Its that simple really. What we do need is to change our economic model. Import no unecessary items that could be classified as ‘waste’. Switch to alternative modes of packaging (especially for food and beverages). Glass is good. Recycle where the chemistry permits. Proscribe any and all packaging made from fossil fuel sources. OK, so it will indeed cost the consumer – but its ‘the only option in town! Right??

    REM: Smokey Coal: Plastic bags: Cig smoking indoors:

    B Peter

  28. @EWI
    “That this blog has become a vehicle for what appears to be a long-running feud between certain people in ESRI and the Greens is unfortunate (not least because the Greens don’t appear to have guest posting privileges here to offer refutations).”
    Ireland is a small, cliqueish, hierarchical society with a secretive, crony leadership. Open debate is a necessity for good policy. Implying that critics should button it is therefore wrong. Doing so would actually damage environmental policy, which no one wants.

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