Updated: Feb 25
The race to net zero is an affectation of the comfortably well off. For everyone else, it represents an existential crisis.
On the eve of war with Russia, wholesale energy and oil prices are going through the roof. Ever since the non-existent, media-driven fuel crisis of 2021, household finances have been squeezed more than ever before. Add
in the looming threat of mandatory electric cars (£30,000+) and ground-source heat pumps (£10,000+) for every household, and the future is looking bleak.
The speed with which the government is moving towards Net Zero - along with the fervour which accompanies the promotion of the green agenda - is at odds with what is practical or achievable. Many natural Conservatives are starting to question the quasi-religious zeal with which green targets have been allowed to dominate the political agenda.
Climate change is real and does need to be tackled. But the more apocalyptic predictions of those wealthy enough to spend their working week glueing themselves to motorways owe far more to the politics of the Left than they do to scientific research or reality. If the so-called 'Climate Emergency' is a religious cult, then it is the angry bleatings of its High Priestess, St Greta-of-Thunberg which falsely promote the idea that we're all going to die in a huge fireball in 10 years time. What could be worse for the mental health of our young people than continuously being told their parents are trying to kill them? And yet, it is precisely these dramatic predictions which drive our politicians to bankrupt the country's citizens in pursuit of that far-off dream: limiting the rise in global temperatures.
It should be said that, for all our eco-friendly measures and stroking of polar bears, the UK only accounted for about 1% of global emissions in the first place. Reducing from 1% can, ipso facto, have only the most minor of impacts. Meanwhile, major polluters - China and India - go unchallenged by the cult members. Their Industrial Revolutions have only just begun, but it is by looking back to our own that we might see answers.
200 years ago, English skylines were dominated by chimneys, belching out thick, black smoke. But the age of steam and coal has, over time, given way to gas, electricity, nuclear... all of which were the result of human enterprise and ingenuity.
It is that ingenuity which will come up with the next 'big thing' that solves our energy and pollution problems. It is into scientific research and education that we should be pouring our millions, not more windmills or the insane ideas of rich liberals. But these things take time.
In the meantime, we must work with what we have and know. We have enough coal, gas and oil in these isles to keep us going for the next several decades. Instead, the government has ordered the permanent capping of experimental drilling sites in Lancashire, Lincolnshire and elsewhere. Why? Because some falafel-chomping nutcases in llama-hair cardigans don't like it. So what's the alternative? Yes - importing gas, probably by ship, which is more polluting and expensive than obtaining our own shale gas would be. That's assuming we can import it at all once things really kick off with Russia.
We have a clean, sustainable technology already: nuclear. The power plant on one of our nuclear submarines generates 300MW - enough to power 125,000 homes. A couple of those in each city or rural area would solve everything. But successive governments have shied away from building the nuclear power stations of the future, reacting to those who shout "but what about Chernobyl?" What of the calmer voices who point out that, statistically speaking, there's more chance of being kicked to death by a donkey than dying as the result of a nuclear disaster?
And what of fuel prices? The duty of 57.9p a litre which goes to the government remains fixed however the price of crude fluctuates. And then we pay VAT on top of that when we fill up. Even so, the large refineries are still making profits of over £1 per litre sold - putting still more money into the pockets of staggering rich oil barons (qv the Archbishop of Canterbury) whilst penalising those who have to drive to work.
The drive to 'Net Zero, as soon as possible' has already had a serious and deleterious effect on this country. To continue further would be utter madness. There's little point in saving the planet if we take the human race back to the Stone Age in the process. But this is what so many eco-activists want to see. The nutcases will not be happy until we're sitting round the glowing embers of the electric car we had to torch just to keep warm, gnawing on carrots, and dressed in grass skirts (it apparently being cruel to kill animals in order to borrow their coats).
The planet matters. So does quality of life. Those who have a family to feed are deeply worried, and with good cause. It’s about time the government abandoned Net Zero and started thinking more creatively about the future – a future which will necessarily involve challenging those countries which contribute most to the problem of CO2 emissions rather than punishing our own citizens still further. And providing solutions which are affordable, not catastrophic to household finances.
It is only those who have the money for an electric car and a ground-source heat pump; those for whom a 50p-per-litre rise in the cost of petrol is mere small change; those who can afford to keep the lights on and the home fires burning – it is only they who can afford to indulge this national vanity project any further. For the rest of us, it’s time to start stocking up on candles for when the lights go out.