Ideologues are projecting their own biases
As natural gas prices rise to record levels, observers are beginning to worry about the possibility of shortages. The causes behind the energy crunch are multiple — ranging from supply problems in Russia to low levels of renewable output in the North Sea.
Still, it’s an ill-wind that blows nobody any good. And there are two groups of ideologues for whom the energy crisis is a gift.
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First of all there are the anti-Brexiteers. As I’ve said before, there’s no problem that’s too global that some people won’t blame it on Britain leaving the EU. Just search for “Brexit” and “energy crisis” on Twitter and you’ll see the #FBPE crowd leaping to their usual conclusions.
It’s nonsense, of course. Just look at this chart from The Economist showing gas prices in the UK, Europe and Asia rising in lockstep:
Meanwhile, on the other side of the political divide, the anti-greens are also exploiting the situation. We’re only in this mess because of our obsession with climate change, they say. For instance, here’s Simon Heffer in the Telegraph:
Really? Has anyone responsible for energy policy in this country claimed that we don’t need to back-up renewables with gas? Have they denied the variability of wind power in the way that many anti-greens deny the reality of climate change?
No, the real revelation of this crunch is that fossil fuel supplies can’t be relied upon either. Most of these supplies are now imported. We can assume that they could be more reliable if we produced a greater proportion domestically.
Of course, our North Sea oil and gas reserves are depleted. As for onshore fracking, that fell foul of opposition from local campaigners who copied their tactics from the opponents of wind farms. Even if we were able to produce more oil and gas domestically, it would still feed into the European and global markets and would therefore be subject to the same market-driven price rises as we’re seeing at the moment.
It’s the under-regulation of our energy sector that’s to blame for its current fragility. It wasn’t environmentalism that created an over-optimised, ‘just-in-time’ energy system with too little gas-storage capacity and too many vulnerable companies, but rather a short-term focus on maximising profits.
But why face up to that inconvenient truth when you can blame the hippies instead?