It would be profoundly ungentlemanly if I were to accuse a woman of lying. So when it comes to the delicate question of whether Energy Secretary Amber Rudd is mendacious, or just plain ignorant and foolish, with regard to her recent comments on Brexit, I have to come down on the side of folly rather than mendacity. But I admit that I do so with some difficulty, since it stretches the limits of credulity to assume that our UK Energy Secretary is so hopelessly out-of-touch with the basics of energy pricing.
Ms. Rudd has reportedly said that leaving the EU would have “unknown consequences”, for Britain’s energy security and energy pricing, and that “Britain would lose its influence on European energy markets”. She advances this as a reason to stay in the EU (although whether her main interest here is protecting energy consumers, or protecting and advancing her own career and ingratiating herself with the Prime Minister, I will leave others to judge).
Is it possible that she can be unaware of the vast damage being done by EU energy policy, as the EU seeks to “lead on the fight against climate change”, oblivious to the fact that no one else is following? Has she not read of the “industrial massacre” which former EU Industry Commissioner Antonio Tajani has so graphically described? Has she not noticed the steel plants closing across Britain, and across Europe – caused in large part by high energy costs? And not just steel plants, but aluminium smelters, oil refiners, chemical and fertiliser plants, glass and ceramic and cement factories?
She castigates the energy companies, and asserts that “the best way to deliver lower energy prices for consumers is to have better competition in the market”. No it’s not, Ms. Rudd. The best way to deliver lower energy prices for households and industry is to stop the Gadarene stampede towards expensive, intermittent and unreliable renewables, and instead switch to proven, reliable, cost-effective electricity generation. Drop the playground technologies and get back to reality.
She seems to think that because oil prices are falling, electricity prices should fall too. Does she not know that oil is a minor factor in electricity generation (except insofar as the National Grid is planning to rely on commissioning large commercial diesel generators to fill in the gaps left by renewables)? Because of EU policy, we are closing reliable, low-cost coal-fired power stations. We are getting Drax to switch from coal to higher-cost, less efficient wood-chip (despite a number of studies indicating that the consequent emissions savings are trivial or even negative). And we are squandering money and misallocating resources on a grand scale to hugely expensive, unreliable and intermittent renewables.
Recently there was very nearly an outbreak of sanity when Ms. Rudd seemed to recognise, perhaps for the first time, the huge hidden costs of renewables, in terms of back-up costs and inefficiencies, and the huge costs of reshaping the grid to cope with widely distributed small generators. But like a flash of sunlight on a stormy day, that little outbreak of common sense has been quickly forgotten.
I have said it many times, but it bears repeating — for at least it is clear that Amber Rudd has not yet got the message. As a direct result of energy policies imposed by Brussels, we are driving jobs and industry and investment out of the EU altogether, often to jurisdictions with lower environmental standards, thus arguably increasing emissions while we undermine our economy. Far from being a reason to stay in the EU, energy policy is one of the most vital arguments for Brexit.
So don’t tell me about the 3½ million jobs that Nick Clegg says we may lose when we leave the EU. Tell me instead about the jobs we are losing today, as a result of perverse EU energy policies. And while you’re at it, please also tell those unemployed steel workers.