This article was kindly published by Bournbrook Magazine
The Russian invasion of Ukraine is the denouement in the unravelling of the folly of our government relying on energy imports when we have ample supplies of coal, oil and gas on this sceptred isle.
In truth, the United Kingdom is modestly exposed to Russia for oil and gas (although whilst oil will no longer be imported from the end of 2022, gas imports from Putin will continue).
We are however reliant on Russia for over 1/3 of coal imports but with coal only around 3% of our energy mix, this is not as serious as it first sounds.
The biggest single issues with relying on almost half our energy being imported into the United Kingdom are:
- the cost to consumers;
- lack of storage capacity to cope with peaks in demand that last several weeks or months (Russian invasion heading into its third week at the time of writing);
Much has been made of the domestic energy price cap being increased by 54%, almost 10 times the current rate of Consumer Price Inflation (“CPI”). This may well increase further in the coming months, with a similar (if not higher) additional increase entirely feasible.
The country is at the whim of the wholesale energy markets, over which we have no control. Whilst there are countries in much worse positions than the UK (Frau Merkel’s decision to ditch nuclear energy post Fukushima and rely on Russian gas looks more absurd with each passing day), that is no consolation to those Britons enduring fuel poverty.
Scrapping VAT on domestic fuel was a key Brexit commitment that has not been honoured. The renewable energy levy (a further stealth tax on consumption) which generates around £9Billion to subsidise renewable energy providers is a further cost that many consumers can ill afford to bear.
It is little surprise then that Nigel Farage has chosen to spearhead the “Vote power not poverty” campaign, along with Reform UK leader, Richard Tice and Dominique Samuels. They have already reached 79,000 followers on Twitter and have started organising town hall events to campaign for a referendum on Net Zero.
Accepting that hydrocarbons are finite but ignoring China, Russia, India and Germany alone will be burning hundreds of thousands of tons of coal for the next 20 years is absurd.
Whilst the link between climate change and CO2 emissions may be a settled issue for many:
- Many is not all – the green lobby is loud not least Greta Thunberg, the Johnsons and the Green Party but no one truly knows how much support there is for the UK transitioning to Net Zero;
- The UK claims to emit less than 1% of global CO2. Even if this factually correct, it is, at best, misleading as we have merely offshored the production of CO2 to others and then created more when importing it;
- Perhaps most importantly, no government has honestly estimated the cost of Net Zero. Former Chancellor, Philip Hammond indicated over £1Trillion in 2019. Since then the National Debt has soared to around £2.5Trillion and we have the highest rate of personal taxation since 1945.
It is time the electorate were given the full facts around Net Zero. If the pandemic has taught us anything it is that the government following “the science” cannot be relied upon on to tell the whole truth on this issue any more than they did over COVID-19. (As an aside, I find it “interesting” how quickly SAGE has been disbanded now that the pandemic has disappeared off news bulletins).
Despite the government’s best efforts and the £9M head start it gave itself in the Brexit referendum, the electorate voted Leave. It was polarising. Referenda by their very nature are always polarising.
Brexit, for me, was about sovereignty by re-establishing the primacy of the UK parliament. We may make bad laws but they are our laws. There is plenty still to address not least immigration and deregulation but recent events, not least the vaccine rollout have shown that a nimble Britain trumps a sclerotic EU.
Net Zero is a debate that needs to be had in the physical and digital public squares of this United Kingdom. No one voted for fuel poverty at the last General Election or any before that.
Why would we impoverish our country, load up with yet more National Debt to try and achieve a nebulous and absurd CO2 target when other countries in the developed world are doing no such thing?
I started this piece speaking about Ukraine. Putin invaded because he knows the West is weak. Instead of obsessing about the opinions of a sulky Swedish teenager or accidentally misgendering others, we must instead focus on the burning issue of the day.
Should we slavishly follow a Net Zero CO2 strategy that will lead to ripping out gas boilers, scrapping petrol and diesel cars and rely solely on renewable energy or should we stick to business as usual, allow inevitable technological advances to facilitate the move away from burning fossil fuels without unnecessarily impoverishing a G7 economy?
Whichever path we choose, the electorate must decide.
© justchrisdavies 2022