Fri Aug 4th, 2006 at 03:28:52 AM EST
Update [2006-8-2 8:18:37 by afew]: If your native language is not English, please compare the questionnaire in your language with the English one and give us your appreciation of the quality of the translation. Thanks!
European Union citizens are to be given a greater say in matters pertaining to the environment, we have recently been informed. That's a good thing, because there's a Green Paper on Energy that we're invited to join in a public consultation on. And the Green Paper (see Jerome a Paris's take on it), has this to say by way of encouragement:
The Spring European Council and the European Parliament are invited to react to this Paper, which should also spark a wide-ranging public debate (p 4),
or again, (p 19) :
The Community needs a real Community-wide debate on the different energy sources, including costs and contributions to climate change...
Ready for the wide-ranging public debate we're being invited to participate in? The English-language consultation is here. A questionnaire. With click-in multiple-answer questions. A sort of online poll.
You said wide-ranging public debate?
Well, perhaps it's a good questionnaire. Let's see.
Promoted by Colman
All the questions are optional, with the exception of Your Profile (citizen or organisation/stakeholder), and your perception of the questionnaire (at the end). Most questions accept multiple answers. They also offer the choice OTHER , which opens a text window for you to type in your other response to the question. There are eight sections, and each of them has a text window at the end for you to add any other comments you may wish to make.
Theoretically, then, you could ignore the preset answers and paste in your own text.
Except that you still have to follow their section headings and answer their questions. And their section headings and questions are hardly neutral. As Jérôme pointed out in the above-referenced diary, the Green Paper makes a number of unargued, unsubstantiated claims. These claims give the questionnaire its structure. They remain unexamined. They are no longer claims, they have become axioms that form the basis of leading questions.
This is how the questionnaire begins:
You thought we might begin with some questions of a general order concerning energy issues, major issues for today like rising demand in times of Peak Oil, GHG emissions and climate change? Silly you. You get Section A, and it says competitiveness and market. In other words, liberalisation is the priority you're going to answer questions about.
And you're not even asked open questions. You're given choices that have to line up with the criterion of furthering a genuine single market. So, if you check the second response, Reinforced powers and independence of national regulatory authorities, that's not going to further the single market, is it, dummy? Choose something else! Doesn't matter what, as long as it's in line with the stated dogma...
Note that the third response leads directly to the following question. You could almost do a flow chart where the right response moves on to a subsidiary question. Disclaimer: I'm not against a European grid and the drafting of a code to regulate it. But is there really any reason not to check all the boxes in Question 2? Aren't we being asked, in fact, to ratify the choices expressed in the question?
Like, in order to bring back cruel and unusual punishments, what methods should be instated:
a) the cat,
b) the rack,
c) the rope,
d) the stocks?
So stop complaining and click on OTHER. Type Les punitions cruelles et inhabituelles sont interdites... STOP! Write that in English if you want your opinion taken into account (see end of diary).
Two more questions in Section A:
Again, in (3), a pre-supposed right thing to do is infiltrated into the question, not offered as a choice. The assumption the market favours long-term infrastructure investment becomes a given (which it is not). The idea of public investment is barely invoked in the weak Increase the share of EU financial support.
(4) Reasonable prices? What does that mean? If we have a free market, the market sets prices, and the market is right. What's this "reasonable"? Is someone trying to tweak the market in their favour? Would that be those who want the first response, Establish integrated and competitive electricity and gas markets, in other words, free and competitive markets that have been integrated by legislative force? Hmm. Note that all the other answers (whatever their merits) can be lumped together with one of those right answers that leads to a subsidiary, Diversify the energy mix. (See Section C).
How does a market maintain employment levels? Is that its job? In fact, this question is linking market to growth to jobs. In particular by the skewed first response, that claims markets guarantee low prices, (which they only do in marketistas' dreams), and the third, attracting investments, and that these two cause growth & jobs.
(For Trans European Energy Networks, see Green Paper p 16, also here and here).
The next section is entitled Solidarity. It's about short-term energy crises. What, you mean it's not about solidarity? Of course it is, use your brains: why else would they have put it under that heading? Oh, all right then -- it's about facing the long-term energy crisis together? No, I said short-term. There's no long-term energy crisis in this questionnaire, not even as a question. Why don't you listen?
Funny how this question doesn't carry a leading assumption. Perhaps some waffle about the market would have been embarrassing here, because what's on offer ain't very market-based. Couldn't we have had a response like: Let the market take care of energy crises? No?
Cut to the chase: this one is all about legislating to enforce low-priced gas sales from the continent to an off-lying country that had its own gas supply until recently and has not made the necessary arrangements for the follow-on. Yes, EU legislation on gas stocks to ensure solidarity among Member States, that's it. Would the off-lyers be the ones worried about not getting "reasonable" prices? Could be.
What is it about this use of old power words of the left like solidarity in a mix with market fundie belief, along with a readiness to get one's way by naked bullying (preferably), that reminds me of New Labour? I don't know. Isn't there a New Laboury streak running through this questionnaire? Don't ask me.
Now we can look at what was an option in A.4, but is now a whole section:
Apart from nuclear (not mentioned in 4), efficiency, decreased imports ( more indigenous), and renewables have come along with energy mix. They had to do a Section on it because it's a heading in the GP. Note that it came in second position in the GP, after Competitiveness, and followed by Solidarity. Why did they change the order from the GP order? (This is the only case).
This is getting long. On to D.
Note the three objectives here (we'll see them again at the end of the questionnaire). We are not asked our opinion on them, or to classify them by order of importance. So, while thinking of climate change, we have to keep in mind the need for competitiveness.
Can anyone tell me why efficiency and renewables is not the same as energy technology, and does anyone have an idea about the policies needed to encourage change? And why this section does not contain an option on demand reduction? Why the words demand reduction are nowhere to be seen in this questionnaire?
Apparently doing lots of new things is the way to go here. Not worth a long discussion. (<whisper> : External policy = how to get round Russia).
And at last:
Well, I do agree with the idea of developing a new, common European energy strategy. But I'd like to have been asked about it from the start. Just as I'd like to have been asked my opinion -- right at the beginning -- on the three core elements of an EU policy that the questionnaire lays down as given in D.9.
Question 18 is a final jab. Not do you think attention to energy is necessary in the face of a major, long-term crisis, but is it going to help the Lisbon process? Just about sums the whole thing up.
Last but not least
This is what it says just above the IDENTIFICATION section at the beginning of the questionnaire:
Please note that replying in English will facilitate our analysis of your answers.
melo said he'd had difficulty downloading an Italian version of the form, so I checked that out. I was able to dl all the different languages with no problems. However, all of them (each in its own tongue) says the same thing: English please.
To be clear: the headings, questions, and options are translated. Clicks in boxes will be read by computer in the same way whatever the language. But if you want to add anything in a text box, better make it English if you want the EU -- that's the European Union of 25 countries and 20 official languages -- to be able to make sense of it. Looks to me like discrimination on linguistic grounds. To say the least, it is rejecting the principle of equality of the 20 official languages.
And it's another reason for finding that this questionnaire is not interested in provoking a true debate or listening to citizens' points of view. Are they going to tell us seriously that major energy lobbies are going to sit down and fill this thing in, that those lobbies don't have other and hugely better access to the Commission's ear?