Sunday, May 15, 2011

UK energy plan reinforced against the odds

Not many Americans properly understand the cabinet form of government practiced in the UK. Here in the US the President's cabinet is appointed directly by the president with no or few concessions given to dissenting views and minority parties. But cabinet government, in the form of a National Coalition, got the UK through many of the tough spots of the 20th century. And a cabinet that must consist of elected MPs or members of the house of Lords is much more independent than the US-style advisory cabinet.

The key point is that to keep the different, and very self-willed characters, in the cabinet, you have to give them some of what they want. National-level negotiation between otherwise warring ideas has a venue in which to take place.

The US Congress can be like this in some seasons. American voters seem to like the House, Senate and Presidency to be held by different parties, and one net result is negotiation.

In the British system, the major deals are struck in the cabinet. In the American system, deals are struck in Congress, or between the President and Congress. Occasionally a President may even reach out to the opposing side. Nixon famously did this many times, but particularly with the "alphabet soup" of environmental legislation we all must learn at American policy school.

In other seasons in the US Congress, it's my way or the highway for the leading parties.

Today's Lib-Tory Coalition in the UK apparently just underwent one of the major Cabinet battles in history, to come out in favor of a lasting climate policy. Since the next UK government after David Cameron's surprisingly successful coalition, is likely to be Labour (or a Labour-Liberal coalition), these plans will last.

This doesn't mean the battle is over for UK climate campaigners. But it does mean that the UK has committed to renewable energy and energy independence, with all that means for industrial development.

At least one immediate result may be that a 2,000 job offshore wind turbine fabrication plant is developed in Kent.

Since this is presumably the kind of plant UMaine's offshore wind project seeks for Maine, we perhaps should watch closely to see what happens next.

Other job schemes are also being touted as a result of the cabinet deal.

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