Thursday, 26 September 2013

G-Cloud and lavatory paper

There are lots of utilities but let's concentrate to start with on gas and electricity.

The gas and electricity markets in the UK are in turmoil. British Gas has just announced an 8% price increase, against a background where the rate of energy poverty has already been rising steeply for years. The regulators don't seem to be able to do anything, and neither does the Prime Minister.

The problem is exacerbated by subsidies given to the alternative energy sector in the name of global warming. These subsidies are paid for in part by levies added to our gas and electricity bills.

Meanwhile, we could be taking advantage of the bucketsful of shale oil we're apparently sitting on, the way they have done in the US, to reduce energy prices, but the roundheads refuse to countenance that, in their Puritan way, and spread malicious rumours of methane coming out of our taps if we start fracking. Also, earthquakes.

Everyone knows that we ought to be developing nuclear capacity but no-one has the courage.

The effect is to drive energy-intensive industry abroad, where prices are lower.

It's all a bit of a mess and now the leader of the opposition has proposed that, if we vote him into power at the 2015 general election, he will freeze energy prices.

Job done. Genius. Why didn't anyone else think of that?

Unless you were born yesterday, you might remember that we did. And last time we had a prices and incomes policy in the UK, in the 1970s, it all went horribly wrong and we had to rediscover the hard way that utility prices should be set by markets. Do we have to go through that again?

If you want a reminder of the good old days, take a look at Venezuela today, where the army has had to be called in to guarantee supplies of lavatory paper, Troops move in as shortages prompt new roll for Venezuela:
Critics of President Nicolas Maduro say the nagging shortages of products ranging from bathroom tissue to milk are a sign his socialist government’s rigid price and currency controls are failing. They have also used the situation to poke fun at his administration on social media networks.

A national agency called Sundecop, which enforces price controls, said in a statement it would occupy one of the factories belonging to paper producer Manpa for 15 days, adding that National Guard troops would “safeguard” the facility.

“The action in the producer of toilet paper, sanitary napkins and disposable diapers responds to the state’s obligation to ensure a steady supply of basic goods for the people,” Sundecop said, adding it had observed“the violation of the right” to access such products.
All of which is way outside the remit of this blog.

Or at least it would be if it wasn't for the exceptionally inept decision of Whitehall to market cloud computing as a utility. It's not just gas and electricity. Computing also is a utility, according to the G-Cloud people.

"Cloud Computing offers utility services that are cheaper, better and faster to provision", as they tell us, and "Cloud computing is: ICT services, or ICT enabled business services supplied on a utility basis" – please see Cloud computing turns IT into a utility, and that's a good thing?, 19 October 2012.

Cloud computing is supposed by Whitehall to be attractive because it turns computing into a utility. Really? To make a rare descent into the demotic, yeah right!

Anyone who wants the price of their computing set by "the gentleman in Whitehall", roll up, roll up, step this way, cloud computing is for you:
Housewives as a whole cannot be trusted to buy all the right things, where nutrition and health are concerned. This is really no more than an extension of the principle according to which the housewife herself would not trust a child of four to select the week’s purchases. For in the case of nutrition and health, just as in the case of education, the gentleman in Whitehall really does know better what is good for people than the people know themselves.

Douglas Jay, 1937, The Socialist Case
Soon G-Cloud could bring all the virtues of the gas and electricity markets to a computer near you. Overseen by the army, until all the suppliers disappear overseas, and delivered along with your lavatory paper.

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