Energy policy: Time for common sense

Energy policy should not be based on reducing CO2 emissions as quickly as possible regardless of all costs and practicality 

Last week saw “The New Dawn of Truth – The London Climate Change Conference 2016”, hosted in Conway Hall by a group of climate scientists with sceptical views on the present climate change consensus. This is the same conference that previously achieved publicity by having their invitation withdrawn by the University College, London, thanks to the petty protestations of the closed minded Professor John Butterworth.  Contrary to what may have been expected, the conference was not dominated by fossil fuel lobbyists but by accomplished academics, rigorously presenting scientific data with the aim of challenging the “mainstream” opinions which are espoused by the majority of scientists and politicians. Some of the claims may have been more outlandish than others, but it was difficult not to leave the conference with the distinct feeling that the current “consensus” may not be the full story.

Unfortunately, it would seem that unless you are a geoscientist who has dedicated decades of your life to the study of the subject, it is nigh on impossible to truly understand every aspect of the topic and the resulting implications, no matter how much some of the self-righteous Green lobby may declare otherwise.

However, whether the sceptics are correct or not, it is painfully clear that the UK needs to take a more common sense approach to its energy policy. Even if we were to give the IPCC the full benefit of the doubt, the effects of reducing man-made CO2 emissions would not become noticeable for decades, if not centuries, by their own admission. Combined with the fact that many of the IPCC’s predictions from only 10 years ago have already failed to come true, it would then be surely absurd to poison and impoverish our citizens of today in the loosely founded hope that at an unknown point in the future it will save an unknown number of people from an uncertain fate. There are signs that the government may be ever so slightly coming round to this point of view; but there is certainly a long way to go.

While certain measures to reduce human CO2 emissions may be practical and cheap, many are most certainly neither, and the Government must avoid the trap of focussing solely on the issue of climate change while ignoring other more imminent issues which “green” policies not only neglect to tackle, but often exacerbate further.

The imminent U-turn on the promotion of diesel cars will be welcome, though unfortunately it will not have come soon enough. Air pollution has soared in urban areas across the country thanks to the lower road tax rates offered for diesel cars; owing to their marginally lower CO2 emissions. The fact that they produce significantly more nitrous oxides and particulates than petrol cars abd emissions which lead to lung disease and other illnesses when inhalee must have passed the government by.

Looking to the energy sector, the scrapping of subsidies for onshore wind was a welcome start last year and the pursuit of shale gas as a source of cheap energy may prove wise in the immediate future. By contrast, Theresa May’s decision to press ahead with the Hinkley Point project in Somerset is far more disappointing. The project will guarantee an increase in energy price for years to come; not to mention the issues surrounding the security of the plant and of disposing of the radioactive waste that it will produce.

Government policy should be to tackle fuel poverty, not to enhance it. One of the biggest proponents of the project is the Lib Dem former DECC Secretary Sir Ed Davey, who defended the doubling of the energy price on the Daily Politics last Thursday by arguing that even though the price is expensive by today’s standards, it may be relatively cheap come 10 years time when the plant is up and running. One dreads to think what Sir Ed would have our electricity bills increase to in the years to come.

While cheap and plentiful for the time being, it is an inevitable reality that fossil fuels will one day run out, and we must be prepared to provide alternative technologies to meet our energy needs for when that day comes. This means that we should welcome new innovations in the field of genuinely viable renewables as well as with nuclear, but what it does not mean is that the public purse should be bled to subsidise them at a time when the technology is clearly not sufficiently developed. Providing businesses and households with cheap, reliable energy must remain the priority, especially given the death toll that fuel poverty in the winter produces, not the narrow-minded appeasement of the Green lobby, or the pursuit of vanity projects like Hinkley Point.

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The views expressed in this article are that of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Conservatives for Liberty