By Paul Homewood
There are two articles out this week, telling the real truth about the suicidal pursuit of Net Zero.
It is no coincidence they are both written by leading Brexiteers.
This one is from David Frost:
Reset the diary. A new crisis is incoming. We were all set for an energy crunch this autumn, with consumption going up, supplies falling, and chickens coming home to roost. But suddenly we have a water crisis first, a taster version of future problems, just to get us in the right mindset for a difficult winter.
Different utilities, different problems, but similar underlying factors. We already have water rationing, via the initial hosepipe bans, with every chance of it getting worse. Energy rationing in some form seems well-nigh certain and we will be extraordinarily lucky if we do not have an actual blackout here, or in the rest of Europe, over the next few months.
Why are we in this situation? I used to imagine that one of the benefits of living in an advanced country was that at least the basics worked. In the developing world you didn’t have reliable water or power. But in the West, when you turned on the taps, water always came out and the lights stayed on without you having to invest in a private generator.
That is changing. Worse, we aren’t trying to solve the problems, but are instead telling people to “cut back – maybe you don’t really need all that water (or electricity) anyway”. We are being asked to change our lifestyle to match the situation, not the other way round.
Yet mastering our environment to make us wealthier has been a fundamental Western attitude of mind for 200 years. If we don’t do it, we won’t be successful for much longer.
Take the water situation first. No one can blame Vladimir Putin for the hosepipe ban. The country is just as wet as it has ever been. Met Office data shows that there has been no significant change in rainfall levels since 1840 and indeed the past 30 years have been 10 per cent wetter than the previous 30.
It is true that there is now more rain in winter rather than summer and the south of England is drier. Whether or not this is the result of climate change caused by CO2 emissions, there is literally nothing we can do about it for the next few decades. Even the most radical conceivable climate policy in the UK, or even in Europe, is not going to alter it quickly.
So clearly we must adapt. That is going to cost. But the costs are perfectly manageable. The planned Anglian Water pipeline to move water from Lincolnshire to East Anglia, which is limping forward thanks to our painfully slow planning system, will cost about £500 million – small change for infrastructure projects. (It would buy us a couple of miles of HS2 or about 20 miles of dual carriageway.)
But larger-scale projects will be needed and not much is planned. Meanwhile, it is 30 years since we last built a reservoir and only 4 per cent of our water is transferred between water companies.
Another way of adapting is through desalination. We are, after all, surrounded by seawater. It is a very good way of avoiding further extraction of water from rivers. Yet the one plant we have, at Beckton in East London, has not been turned on and might never be. A further proposal, in Hampshire, is stuck thanks to green campaigners, who worry that it is too energy-intensive, and the opposition, typically, of the local Conservative MP.
So instead we take the easy way out – reduce demand. In the short run that means hosepipe bans, shorter showers, and so on. In the longer run, it is said, consumption per person must fall by a third or more.
I don’t agree with that. We have enough water. We need to invest in capturing it, storing it, and moving it around to where it is needed. That is what an advanced country does.
We see the same “learn to live with it” response in energy policy. Obviously, the short-run shock is heavily influenced by the Ukraine war. But the longer run policy is not. We have chosen to invest in forms of energy that are unreliable and simply cannot generate what we need, yet come at extraordinary cost. Indeed the UK’s grid capacity is actually falling despite all the new pressures on it.
This circle can only be squared by reducing demand – and, as you would expect, European final energy consumption has been falling for 20 years and UK electricity consumption is at 1970s levels. Some say these are good things. I say they are symptoms of an advanced society regressing in its ambitions.
Meanwhile, here in Britain, we have decided we don’t need gas storage capacity and we are funnelling LNG to the EU because we can’t store it ourselves. As the unbelievably complacent National Grid winter plan last week showed, we are now very reliant on the Europeans sending power back to us this autumn.
But EU members face the same problems that we do – in many cases worse.
We surely should have learnt from the EU’s vaccine export ban last year, and their attempt to commandeer jabs produced for the UK, that when the chips are down it is every country for itself. We simply can’t rely on power coming back through the interconnectors.
There is every possibility, as Ambrose Evans-Pritchard has been pointing out, that people in this country will face power rationing – just as is already required in parts of Europe – so as to keep the lights on in Germany. That is going to be a hard sell. If we are to be asked by the EU to show such solidarity, a condition must surely be that they end their lawfare against us over the Northern Ireland Protocol.
My big worry is that it has got easier to tell people to “get used to it”. The Covid lockdowns showed that some people – the Establishment laptop class, not those who actually work at work – discovered that they could live a more restricted lifestyle. Some discovered they quite liked it. We must make sure that our leaders don’t think that’s possible again.
The right way forward is not telling people to do less with less. It is becoming a more productive society once again. Building infrastructure. Investing in nuclear and gas – the only power that can do the job. Mastering our environment.
The next Prime Minister can – and I’m sure will – get us back to it.