Ed Davey, jokingly known as Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change, has finally realised, despite his green obsessions, that he can’t keep the lights on in Britain without a serious policy change.
We in UKIP launched our new Energy Policy last month in Birmingham, when I declared that on current policies the UK was at risk of electricity shortages and blackouts by 2020. Far from being alarmist, it soon became clear that I wasn’t alarmist enough. Two weeks later, the Government’s own electricity regulator Ofgem published a report warning of the risk of power outages not by 2020, but by 2015. That’s little more than two years away.
Maybe Mr. Davey was galvanised by the Ofgem report. Maybe his own civil servants gave him the bad news. Or maybe he worked it out all by himself, because the facts are now overwhelmingly clear. It’s too late to build nuclear in time for 2015. The government is still running scared of Brussels on coal. The only grown-up technology available in the time-scale is gas, and we need lots of it. So it’s reported that Ed Davey is trying to use (or to create) a loophole in the draconian emissions rules with which the government has hanged itself, to enable him to build rather a lot of gas capacity. Fast.
Fanfare. Drum roll. Enter Luciana Berger MP, stage left. She, we are told, is Labour’s Spokesman (or as she might say, Spokesperson) on Climate Change.
Ms. Berger castigates Ed Davey for creating uncertainty for those who might invest in green projects in the UK. (Personally I am delighted that John Hayes, and Owen Paterson, and now Ed Davey are creating uncertainty about the future of renewables investment, precisely because it will deter investors and hopefully put an end to the nonsense).
She reminds us that seven companies recently warned that they would pull out of renewables investment in the UK if the government watered down emissions targets. She tells us that “a low carbon economy has the potential to create 400,000 jobs in the UK”. At the same time she calls on the government to “drive down prices for consumers” — even though it is the very policies she’s arguing for that are driving up prices.
Ms. Berger needs some basic lessons in economics. Hasn’t she read, first of all, the recent research (including that by Prof Gordon Hughes of Edinburgh University) showing that our primary renewable technology, wind power, fails to achieve significant emissions reductions, and fails to add significant incremental generating capacity? Has she read the research by Verso Economics and others that each “green job” created in the renewables industry costs several jobs in the real economy, as higher energy prices create a barrier to growth and investment? This is not about “green jobs”. It’s about green unemployment. In net terms, 400,000 green jobs mean an extra million or so unemployed.
Doesn’t she know that Europe is becoming hopelessly uncompetitive as we force up energy prices? Or that the UK has the third highest energy prices in the developed world (after Italy and Japan)? Does she know that natural gas prices in the USA have halved in the last couple of years, thanks to shale gas, and now stand at a quarter of the European price? Or that India and China rely on cheap coal, with 1200 new coal-fired power stations in the pipeline?
Hasn’t she read the report from the Boston Consulting Group, arguing that the USA is set to take over from China as the world’s manufacturing hub in five to ten years? That this is partly as a result of more competitive labour costs, as wages rise in China and productivity rises in the USA — but is mostly down to low energy prices?
Can’t she see that what’s driving jobs and industry and investment out of the EU is not just taxation and regulation but hopelessly uncompetitive energy prices? And doesn’t she see that our renewables obsession is driving up prices as it undermines our energy security and unbalances the Grid? And forcing millions of pensioners into fuel poverty?
Let me guess. I think the answer to most of these questions is “No, she can’t (or doesn’t)”. Still obsessed with greenery and the climate obsessions of last century, she’s intent on driving the British economy down a cul-de-sac of failure and poverty. Yet another reason why Labour is not fit to govern.