From London to Cape Town and from Washington DC to Lisbon, I've dined al fresco in slightly nippy weather thanks to the wonderful invention that is the patio heater.
Members of the European Parliament, a body that is always at the ready to squeeze the pleasure out of the lives of its 350 million constituents, want to ban the devices in an attempt to maim two birds with one stone: global warming, and smoking.
[Patio heaters] give a vital boost to trade at pubs, cafes and restaurants by enabling customers to sit outside in cool weather. They have become particularly important to pubs since the smoking ban prevented customers smoking inside pubs. Industry experts say a ban on outdoor heaters could cost the pub and catering trade £250 million a year in lost business.
Euro MPs are today due to vote on a resolution calling on the European Commission to set a timetable for abolishing goods with low energy-efficiency ratings, with outdoor patio heaters specifically mentioned.
A United Nations climate-change scientist called bullshit on the supposed environmental impact of patio heaters, however, pointing out that
It would take an equivalent of more than five patio heaters to produce as much CO2 as one TV on stand-by mode does in a year.
Well, Europe's political classes could go after families with more than one TV next, I suppose. Or after citizens who use their outdoor grill in excess of once a month. Or they could ban night-time sports matches, which require blazing lights. And hey, those eternal flames on the tombs of various Unknown Soldier-monuments all over Europe are pretty wasteful too, you know. There ought to be extensive rules and laws for all of that, don't you think?
Just to show that I'm not averse to helping the environment, I can think of one exercise in shameful profligacy that'd be easy to eliminate with just a little political will. It's the European Parliament's own wholly unnecessary monthly schlep between Brussels and Strasbourg, which, in terms of carbon-dioxide production, is the annual equivalent of 150,000 transatlantic flights.