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Blame Brexit, that's the ticket

01 Feb 2023 | OP ED Watch

Just as some people are still blasting out Tweets about how much they dislike Donald Trump who caused everything bad, so that same New York Times climate columnist David Wallace-Wells says Brexit wrecked Britain. Well, that and conservatives. See, “focusing on a single “Leave” vote risks confusing that one abrupt outburst of xenophobic populism with what in fact is a long-term story of manufactured decline. As Burn-Murdoch demonstrates in another in his series of data-rich analyses of the British plight, the country’s obvious struggles have a very obvious central cause: austerity.” Unless of course it was deliberately destroying the country’s energy system to fight the purple dragons igniting the sky.

The UK and EU energy crisis has slipped momentarily from the headlines due to a spot of luck in the form of a mild January. But such luck seems to be running out, fittingly for leaders who seem to think unusual warmth is a crisis. Hence “Impressive stretch of winter ahead after Wednesday’s snow in Ontario” and “Mississauga gets pummeled by snow”, and “Winter's back: Rounds of snow to hit Ontario this weekend ahead of cold snap.” Reuters’ “Sustainable Switch” (which we note irritably sends out a weekly newsletter you can’t read online unless you wander through the thicket all the way to their “LinkedIn” page), concedes that “Cold snap prompts action on soaring gas bills” in Europe. Action being a word here meaning subsidies to stave off the disaster of bad policy that is being pursued aggressively despite its results:

“The frosty winter weather in Europe ❄️ has prompted more measures to help consumers pay gas and electricity bills as the cost of living rises and to spur the expansion of clean energy solutions 🔋.”

Sorry about the cute little icons. Reuters is apparently “hip” or something. And the EU is apparently doubling down on bad policy or something:

“This week, the European Union made proposals to overhaul its electricity market to better protect consumer energy bills 🧾 from short-term swings in fossil fuel prices ⛽, the European Commission said. The EU is reforming its power market ⚡ to attempt to avoid a repeat of last year, when cuts to Russian gas supply drove European electricity prices to record levels, hiking bills for households and forcing some industries to close ⛔. ‘We need to make the electricity market design fit for the future, allowing it to deliver the benefits of affordable clean energy to everyone,’ EU energy commissioner Kadri Simson said.”

By driving up the price of energy then trying to hide it. Oh, that’s original. Indeed, it’s the sort of approach that, applied more broadly, prompted Margaret Thatcher’s famous jibe 47 years ago that “The problem with socialism is that you eventually run out of other people’s money.” (In keeping with our pedantic habit of checking references we find that what she apparently actually said, in an interview with “This Week” on Thames TV on February 5, 1976 was “Socialist governments traditionally do make a financial mess. They always run out of other people’s money.”)

Which is even worse than it sounds because they do so after spending years concealing problems which allows them to get worse and worse before collapse becomes inevitable. And indeed we learn that in Britain “Tens of thousands of businesses will be at risk of collapse after the government cut financial support for their energy costs by 85 per cent, business leaders have warned.” But what else can you do? Even after being cut to one-seventh of their current level the cost of these subsidies will still be £6 billion. Just think how many power plants you could build for that kind of coin if you could build power plants. Ones that work, we mean.

As Gwyn Morgan recently wrote in C2C Journal:

“My 2021 year-end column entitled ‘Fossil Fuel Follies’ focused on the bizarre impacts of the great march by ‘net-zero’ green energy zealots to replace the approximately 84 percent of global energy supplied by crude oil, natural gas and coal with wind turbines and solar panels. Some were so ridiculous as to be humorous, but there’s nothing funny about the enormous damage inflicted by pursuit of this technically impossible goal that became evident in 2022.”

And speaking of Britain, the energy crisis rages on, to the point that, “Sustainable Switch” notes:

“Britain’s National Grid said it would pay customers 💷 to use less power under a new scheme designed to help prevent power shortages as temperatures in the country continue to drop 🥶.”

Drop? Why would they drop? Aren’t we seeing a record warm January as part of the hottest year ever or some such? We’re certainly seeing the subsidies heat up:

“More than a million households and businesses have signed up 📝 to the Demand Flexibility Service (DFS), which rewards people, usually via money off their bills, for turning off appliances 🔌 such as ovens and dishwashers during a specific period when electricity demand is high. This comes as the country’s energy regulator said that Britain should consider launching a social tariff 🤲 for household energy which would see those most vulnerable and least able to pay, charged a lower price for their power.”

This push to stop using electrical appliances is coming, we note, from the same people pushing us to “electrify everything.” We should also note, by the way, that in Pakistan they had a similar problem from a much weaker economic base with much worse consequences. NBC reports that:

“Much of Pakistan was left without power for several hours on Monday morning as an energy-saving measure by the government backfired. The outage spread panic and raised questions about the cash-strapped government’s handling of the crisis. Electricity was turned off across the country during low usage hours overnight to conserve fuel across the country, leaving technicians unable to boot up the system all at once after daybreak, officials said.”

And in Britain, a less woke segment of Reuters allowed on Jan. 9, “UK becoming less attractive for investment, manufacturers warn.” And what seems to be the problem? Why:

“Britain has become less competitive and less attractive to foreign investors as a result of soaring energy costs and recent political turmoil, manufacturers said in an industry survey released on Monday.”

Among the devastating, malicious decisions Wallace-Wells pins on Britain’s Conservatives is that after the 2008 financial crisis “the Tory-led government set about cutting annual public spending, as a proportion of G.D.P., to 39 percent from 46 percent.” And everybody knows that a country just can’t prosper if the state takes only 40% of all productive output rather than half.

How bad is it? Well, not. In fact:

“Of course, trends aside, in absolute terms Britain remains a wealthy place: the sixth-largest economy in the world. Its G.D.P. is now smaller than that of India, another of its former colonies, but it still boasts some of the world’s finest research universities, and can claim partial credit for the generation’s greatest practical scientific breakthrough, the Covid mRNA vaccines. And while the deluded promises of Brexit boosters obviously haven’t come to pass, neither have the bleakest projections: food shortages, crippling labor crunches or economic chaos.”

Actually there are energy shortages and economic chaos. Why, the Guardian just moaned that “Poorest in UK have £40 a month less to spare than a year ago, study finds”. (Naturally the rich got richer, as they have been doing since the invention of envy.)

Just not from Brexit. From sky-high energy prices. As the Guardian added:

“The differing fortunes recorded on its cost of living tracker reflect a higher rate of inflation of 16.5% for those at the bottom end of the income scale, who spend two-thirds of their income on essentials such as food and energy, compared with 13.3% for those at the top, who spend just under half…. People struggling to afford to pay for electricity and gas can be forced on to pre-payment meters, which are more costly than regular contracts where the customer pays monthly or by direct debit.”

In another similar piece the same outfit howled “‘Eating or breathing’: energy costs force stark choices on disabled people”. (Canada’s not there yet but we’re certainly working on it.)

As to why energy prices are high, well, neither story wasted any time on that sort of nonsense. Even though it’s old news; for instance last August CNN Business reported that “A third of Brits face poverty with energy bills set to hit $5,000”. And yes, the government did it on purpose.

In such matters the delicacy of the press is impressive to witness. For instance an Associated Press story that, in the NBC version, said:

“Global prices for food commodities like grain and vegetable oils were the highest on record last year even after falling for nine months in a row, the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization said, as Russia’s war in Ukraine, drought and other factors drove up inflation and worsened hunger worldwide.”

Blast those “other factors”. We hate them. AP did allow that “Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February… also jolted energy markets”. But bad policy? What bad policy?

Glad you asked. Because over at Net Zero Watch, “With market prices for electricity so high”, Andrew Montford tallied up:

“what effect it has had on the bottom lines of windfarms, particularly the ones who are in the Renewables Obligation scheme, and therefore get a generous subsidy on top of the money extracted from hard-up consumers.”

Sure enough, they’re raking it in. As Montford says:

“At 500MW, Greater Gabbard is a mid-sized offshore unit. Commissioned in 2012, it has been entirely uneconomic, making an underlying loss averaging £70 million each year. However, thanks to generous subsidies, of an average of £170 million per year, it has been able to hand back a handsome profit to its shareholders. They would have been looking for cumulative operating profits to surpass the billion pound mark this year. However, thanks to the surge in electricity prices, the financial performance of the windfarm has been transformed. The underlying losses have been turned around to a profit of £74 million, so with the subsidy on top, the shareholders are a quarter of a billion pounds to the good. Next year’s results could therefore easily be a profit of £350 million. I’m sure the owners are very grateful to consumers of electricity across the country.”

One comment on “Blame Brexit, that's the ticket”

  1. "Britain’s National Grid said it would pay customers to use less power under a new scheme designed to help prevent power shortages as temperatures in the country continue to drop"
    And at the same time they were paying owners of wind turbines in Scotland not to produce electricity as they hadn't built transmission lines to carry the load

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