Still keen on green now your that bill’s arrived? Carbon zero is a glorious goal. But as our leaders use it to burnish their halos, the true cost is finally hitting home. ANDREW NEIL warns of storms to come
- Boris Johnson will host world leaders at the COP26 in Glasgow next month
- Household energy bills are 25% higher because of green and social levies
- Gas crisis could’ve been avoided if Government embraced ‘fracking’
- Most experts say Green Deal will cost at least £1 trillion over the next 20 years
He pushes the need to combat climate change with the same gusto with which he used to excoriate all forms of greenery when he was a mere newspaper columnist.
With the zeal of the convert, Boris Johnson will pose as the Jolly Green Giant when he hosts world leaders for the global climate jamboree known as COP26 in Glasgow next month, leading the international charge against CO2 emissions and to the promised land of a new green economy.
Ambitious targets for slashing UK emissions have been set. Then made legally binding. Then made even more ambitious still.
Plans are being concocted to force fundamental changes in our lives, from how we heat our homes to how we cook, what we should drive and even how much flying and meat-eating should be tolerated. Investment is being ramped up to ensure renewable energy plays an ever-expanding role in electricity generation.
All governments, of course, have a duty to tackle climate change, which is real and potentially dangerous on so many fronts. But getting from where we are now to a greener economy with net zero emissions (or close to it) is expensive, disruptive and difficult.
The Government has a duty to give us the full picture and not just grandstand on the world stage with uncosted green rhetoric. Otherwise, when push comes to shove, the Government will not be able to carry the people, as President Macron found out in France three years ago when he tried to raise fuel prices to reduce consumption and sparked off the yellow-vest protests.
Boris Johnson pushes the need to combat climate change with the same gusto with which he used to excoriate all forms of greenery when he was a mere newspaper columnist, writes Andrew Neil
In other words, the Jolly Green Giant needs to come clean on the fact that his environmental deal will generate Jolly Big Bills, which we will be forced to foot.
So far all Johnson has offered is a menu without prices. The green virtue-signalling has grown ever louder but the associated costs aren’t even whispered. What will the Great British public think about the glorious virtues of greenery now the bill’s finally arriving?
When I interviewed Chancellor Rishi Sunak in June, I asked him to outline the full and true cost of getting to net zero. He was unable to do so, either because he didn’t know or because it was too large a figure to present to an unsuspecting public.
But that’s now all changing. The bills for going green are now coming in. Prepare to be shocked — and poorer.
For a start, take a close look at your annual household energy bill. On average, it’s now £1,300, having just risen by almost £140.
By spring it could be closer to £1,700. Some energy experts say it could even nudge £2,000, which would bring real hardship to many homes.
Now, energy prices are rising across the globe and the reasons are beyond any one government’s control. The robust V-shaped nature of the global economy’s post-pandemic recovery surprised energy companies, leading to worldwide shortages of oil and gas.
China is scouring the globe for gas to keep its industries working and the lights on, pushing up prices to an incredible seven times their level of a year ago. Kremlin mischief makes the shortages even worse as President Putin cuts supplies to Europe to force it to accept Russian gas on his terms.
But at so many turns our Government’s green obsessions have made things worse. Household energy bills — already soaring — are pushed 25 per cent higher by a variety of green and social levies whose proceeds are used to finance the switch to renewables and the decarbonisation of the economy.
Plentiful gas supplies could have been secured at a reasonable price if the Government had proceeded to exploit the massive reserves of shale gas on which Britain sits. But two years ago, after almost a decade of failure and running scared of powerful environmental lobbies, it turned its back on ‘fracking’, a process of getting gas out of the ground which had ended America’s dependence on Middle East fossil fuels and turned it into a net exporter of energy.
The overall cost of the Johnson green deal is as yet unknown. Most experts say it will be at least £1 trillion over the next two decades or so, writes Andrew Neil
In his speech to the Tory conference last week, Johnson talked of the raw deal northern towns such as Blackpool suffer because of the way our economy is configured. But that part of the North West has some of the biggest shale gas reserves in Europe. Fracking would have brought thousands of well-paid jobs to Blackpool and many other parts of the North, as well as securing cheap gas supplies.
But the Government preferred to burnish its green credentials and turned its back on fracking. As a result, instead of raising the living standards of people in places such as Blackpool, it stuffs billions of pounds into the pockets of despots from Moscow to the Gulf who sell us gas we can’t do without at increasingly extravagant prices. I don’t think that’s what most of us understand by levelling up.
It’s not as if the Government didn’t know we would need copious supplies of natural gas for the foreseeable future. It still accounts for 40 per cent of all our electricity generation, more when the wind doesn’t blow, which has been the case quite a lot this year.
No country is immune from the vagaries of global energy markets. But our Government has an uncanny knack of making difficult situations worse. Nor does it seem capable of learning from its mistakes. In the past 24 hours it was reported the Government plans to refuse Shell permission to develop further its Jackdaw gas field in the North Sea, which could meet 15 per cent of UK household gas consumption.
But Johnson clearly wants nothing to do with fossil fuels in the run-up to Glasgow, even if it means Putin and the Emir of Qatar will be further enriched by British treasure.
The spike in the cost of home heating and cooking — essential spending which no household can avoid and which hit the poor hardest — couldn’t come at a worse time.
Inflation is rearing its costly head again. Prices are rising on everything from food to second-hand cars. True, wages are now rising strongly too but often not by as much as prices. So living standards are being squeezed at a time when the Government is already hitting household budgets.
Andrew Neil writes: When I interviewed Chancellor Rishi Sunak in June, I asked him to outline the full and true cost of getting to net zero. He was unable to do so, either because he didn’t know or because it was too large a figure to present to an unsuspecting public
The rise in National Insurance contributions will reduce take-home pay. So will the freezing of income tax thresholds. Town halls are threatening big rises in council tax. Government ministers won’t rule out further tax rises.
Taken together, all this amounts to a serious assault on living standards, which is why the energy issue is now taking centre-stage in the political debate. It’s a pity the Prime Minister was more interested in telling jokes than telling us what the Government intends to do about it when he spoke to the Tory faithful in Manchester on Wednesday.
Worse is to come. Though ministers have been suspiciously silent on the matter, it is clear the Government’s net zero strategy will require gas boilers, cookers and fires to be ripped out of our homes and replaced by heat-pump systems, which are more expensive and less efficient.
Heat pumps work best with good insulation, so the combined cost of replacing your boiler and upgrading the insulation could be close to £20,000 at today’s prices. Nobody has explained who will pay for all this. No doubt there will be some subsidy, especially for low-income households. But I suspect most homeowners will have to pick up the bulk of the bill themselves.
As the boilers are being replaced at some cost, the Government also plans to point us firmly in the direction of electric vehicles. Some time early in the next decade there will likely be no choice about it. EVs will become more affordable. But the overall cost will be huge.
Decarbonising transport — which net zero requires — will double or even treble current demand for electricity. The grid is struggling to meet existing demand. Dirty coal-fired stations have been fired up because the wind has been weak and gas supplies scarce. The National Grid nervously assures us it can keep the lights on this winter. Industry, however, might struggle.
Just how we double capacity — with what and at what cost — is only one of the many mysteries of the Johnson green economy.
So are green jobs. Politicians are always boasting about the employment the green economy will create — especially in the North, Johnson likes to add. Sadly, it’s a chimera. Our wind turbines are being built in Europe and our solar panels in China. We’ve pretty much missed out on the manufacturing of both. What green jobs we do have were hugely expensive to create and often don’t last for long.
And the zero-carbon economy can destroy more jobs than it creates. One consequence of a decade of greenery is that our industrial energy costs are now twice that of our European competitors. Heavy industry, from steel to chemicals, is struggling to compete. The jobs in jeopardy are in the North. Another setback for levelling up.
As we have seen, the overall cost of the Johnson green deal is as yet unknown. Most experts say it will be at least £1 trillion over the next two decades or so. Some say it’s more likely to be closer to £3 trillion all up. Whatever the cost, consumers and taxpayers will foot the bill. And for what?
Britain now accounts for only 1 per cent of global CO2 emissions. Even if net zero can be achieved, it will make very little difference to the overall global climate change picture. The Government says we have to set an example. But the idea that China or India will be impressed and follow suit is a fantasy.
They have their own agendas and Britain doesn’t feature on any of them. They are also savvy enough to know that a major way we have cut emissions has been via the loss of manufacturing to other countries with plants belching out pollution, whose output we then import. It hardly makes for a greener planet.
For Britain to spend so much to achieve so little would seem the height of folly. China has enough coal-fired capacity to generate 1,000 gigawatts of electricity. Power stations capable of generating another 100 gigawatts are in the process of being built.
Britain’s total generating capacity is 75 gigawatts. So China is about to add more coal-fired capacity than we have total capacity from all sources.
The zero-carbon economy can destroy more jobs than it creates. One consequence of a decade of greenery is that our industrial energy costs are now twice that of our European competitors, writes Andrew Neil
This is not to say that Britain should do nothing. There are many ways in which we can become greener, cleaner and more efficient in our use of energy without worshipping at the costly shrine of net zero. We need a system which has nuclear power providing the base load, renewables an increasing part of the mix and gas capacity to click in when power generated by renewables is intermittent.
This should have been our policy for the past decade. Instead, energy policy has ricocheted all over the place with green rhetoric increasingly a substitute for credible policy.
We also need to unleash our world-class research and development to produce step changes in battery storage and carbon capture. Politicians talk as if both were a reality. On the scale required, they are not. Yet without them net zero is unattainable. It is part of the dishonesty of current green policy that ministers mortgage our future to scientific breakthroughs that have yet to happen.
Above all, the Government needs to trust the people. The utopian aspirations of so much green rhetoric need to meet the harsh reality of everyday life. People want a cleaner, greener planet. But they will not tolerate a green strategy that involves posh folk telling plain folk what they must do. Especially when the posh folk are doing very nicely out of greenery and the plain folk are picking up the tab.
That way lies failure on all fronts. It need not be like that. But the successful transition to a greener economy cannot be solely the concept of an elite while everybody else is expected meekly to fall in line. It is not too late to democratise our green strategy. And in the meantime? My advice is to pray for a mild winter.
Source: Read Full Article