We’re from the government and are here to help

That is, of course, one of the classic lines of untruth. A spectacular example comes from the UK:

[The] invention looked like being a godsend to all those businesses across the country, such as those on most industrial estates, that generate huge amounts of cardboard packaging that normally gets thrown away into landfill. Being a careful engineer, Mr Donovan was keen to ensure that his device complied with all the relevant EC legislation, so several times between 2001 and 2003 he consulted the Environment Agency. On the basis of their advice, he completed a prototype of his system, which saved a local plant nursery thousands of pounds a year on its heating bills…

After looking again at the EC’s waste incineration directive, [the Agency] now advised that, because Mr Donovan’s system was powered by “waste”, it would have to comply with the same rules as a giant industrial incinerator. Although its emissions were less than a domestic woodburning stove, so much money would now have to be spent on regulatory requirements, which would nearly triple its cost, that the system would be completely unviable…

Mr Donovan’s company was forced to close and he and his backers lost all their money. But then two things happened. First, Mr Burt was so shocked by the way his constituent had been treated that he asked the Ombudsman to investigate. Second, Mr Donovan, after a brief spell as a bread roundsman, found work in which he has come across a variety of waste-powered heating systems, none as efficient as his own, fuelled by cardboard, chipboard treated with toxic chemicals and other potentially polluting substances. To none of these has officialdom raised any objection.

His great mistake, it seemed, was to ask the agency for advice. As it happens, his system was so small that it wouldn’t have come under the regulatory control of the agency anyway, but under that of local authorities. Had he just gone ahead and marketed it, he would have had no problems.

European Union rules are far more important than allowing entrepreneurs to provide genuine environmental improvements, it seems. The rest of the tale should remind people of just why the Fatal Conceit is exactly that.