This week, as we all know, sees the start of an increase in all our domestic energy bills to join the increases we have already seen in petrol, diesel and our daily and weekly shopping and, of course, the totally unnecessary increase in national insurance.
We are told that all this is due to a) covering the costs of Covid, b) the world waking up after Covid and c) the Russo-Ukraine war.
A lot of this may indeed be correct: the country’s economy certainly suffered a downturn during the pandemic and the chancellor had to borrow monumental amounts of money which has to be repaid. With industry getting back into its stride, demand for energy and raw materials begins to increase and as everything depends, to a greater or lesser degree on energy for manufacturing or processing or transport, increased costs here are reflected in almost everything we buy or use.
But does this have to be the case? Do we have to be paying through the nose to fill up our cars, heat our homes or cook our food? The answer surely is no.
In this country we are fortunate enough to have abundant supplies of the raw material for our energy requirements. In addition to the increasing number and size of wind farms around our coast, those same waters contain more than enough oil and gas to supply all our needs until carbon neutral energy sources can replace them.
I know that the green lobby will throw up their hands in horror at the thought of using even an ounce more oil or natural gas and they would prefer us all to travel no further than we can walk, live in unheated homes and dress in clothes made from grass, but unlike them, most of us have to live a rather more practical life.
Of course the ‘zero carbon’ target is a good target to have and we should certainly pursue it, but not to the point where the less well off in our society are deprived of the basic essentials of life. Carbon emissions from the UK are reducing, and increasing technology in carbon capture and the way fossil fuels are used will accelerate this. We CAN afford to extract more from the North Sea or from fracking (and, no, we are not going to suffer from earthquakes – fracking technology, too, is evolving) in the short term without accelerating global warming and while we develop greener power sources (including nuclear) to take over in due course.
This would also bring down costs. If we, as a country, are producing more fuel than we need, open market prices will reduce, and why should we in the UK then pay open market prices anyway? What is wrong with having one price for home consumption and another for everyone else? With increased production the chancellor could also reduce the amount of tax per unit of gas or oil and still increase his overall revenue. And not reduce just by the insulting 5p per litre of petrol (for which we are all supposed to be so grateful).
Nor, in this price spiral, must we forget the effect of the war in Ukraine. That country is a major supplier of the world’s wheat and sunflower seeds and therefore sunflower oil. The harvest for the coming year, and possibly the next two years, is going to be dramatically reduced (tanks, mines and artillery tend not to mix well with growing crops), so the price of many staples will rise further. The poor, both here and elsewhere in the world, will, as always, feel it most, while the comfortably-off, green-virtue-signalling chattering classes will see little effect on their lives.
Target a greener world, certainly, but right now let’s concentrate on the immediate problem of allowing people to be able to afford to provide for themselves and their families.
Image Credits: Annie Dawkins .