by Peter Franklin
Wednesday, 22
September 2021
Debate
15:52

Sorry, the energy crisis has nothing to do with Brexit or hippies

Ideologues are projecting their own biases
by Peter Franklin

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:

Source: The Economist

Serious commentators are well aware that this is not a Brexit issue — though neither Sky News nor the Financial Times can resist having a little dig. 

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: 

Preening ourselves about our green credentials, and thus choosing not to exploit huge gas resources under our land and in our own waters, we have made Britain enormously vulnerable. We foolishly talk up our ability to be powered by renewables – a form of electricity generation that has yet to meet the rhetorical claims politicians make for it.
- Simon Heffer, 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?

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Samir Iker
Samir Iker
1 year ago

“As for onshore fracking, that fell foul of opposition from local campaigners who copied their tactics from the opponents of wind farms”
While I admit to have no clue about their respective tactics, the comparison seems ridiculous considering Wind farms have grown spectacularly, despite high subsidy levels, and questions on utility, cost and potential environment impact….. while fracking is dead in the water.
Which suggests that a. the tactics are not the same at all b. Fracking opponents were more devious and unprincipled at using smear tactics and lies to get fracking banned

“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? “
Do you think we are stupid? The entire argument of the Greens, and their supporters including Prince and Princess Nut nut, is that we are supposed to live in a fossil fuel free future, somehow relying on wind power and “renewables” such as wood fired plants (which are so not more polluting than coal), while ignoring the variability of Wind / Solar, refusing to use Nuclear as a back up, etc

And no, unlike you enlightened souls, anti-greens don’t “deny the reality of climate change”, theymerely point out severe issues in the modelling, fear mongering about potential impact and downright lying such as the hockey stick, the suppression of sceptics voices and ignoring both negative impacts of Green polices and the negligible benefit of destroying the UK economy while China continues to built Thermal.

“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.”
Because of the Greens and their obsession against nuclear, fracking and coal, we have a ridiculous situation where Europe is relying on cutting trees to substitute for coal and importing Gas for plants while reducing Nuclear. 

trentvalley57uk
trentvalley57uk
1 year ago
Reply to  Samir Iker

Well said. The carbon footprint of importing wood pellets which have not yet been definded as producing less carbon. The cutting down of million of trees destroying the enviroment and animals to commit to a treeless desert which will take 40 to 100 years to replace. Are Trees also used to produce windmills. What happens when we run out of trees. Windmills only have a 10 to 15 year life span so must continually be replaced and their detritus disposed of. Same applies to solar panels as the Green lobby put the country into a non retrievable position within 60 years

Last edited 1 year ago by trentvalley57uk
Johann Strauss
Johann Strauss
1 year ago

Seems to me the UK would be well advised to pursue a heavily nuclear future. If the French can make heavy use of nuclear plants, many of which I presume are quite old, surely the UK can as well. Plus with new nuclear technology and thorium reactors, the footprint is much smaller and the safety profile is really excellent.
In addition, the UK would do well do make use of its immense coal reserves. After all, one can always make use of clean coal, so if one has got it, why not use it.
The truth is that when it comes to energy one has to do what works rather than let the green ideologues run the insane asylum. One thing is for sure, the ideologues can talk as much as they want but I will bet they don’t want to revert to a world without energy; i.e., a return to the literal stone age.

Linda Hutchinson
Linda Hutchinson
1 year ago
Reply to  Johann Strauss

One problem is the highly vocal anti-nuclear lobby, who have very little knowledge of modern nuclear technology and inflated fears of risks involved. The bigger problem, however, is the fact that successive governments have listened to them and made little attempt at making the case for nuclear. It is perhaps ironic that we do use nuclear in Britain – it come from France though.

Giles Toman
Giles Toman
1 year ago
Reply to  Johann Strauss

We should hang on to our coal reserves, then, when everything else is stuffed, re-open and dig new mines.

Cheryl Jones
Cheryl Jones
1 year ago
Reply to  Giles Toman

I agree. Let’s keep it as our back up plan. And grow more trees. Being an island has its benefits

Hardee Hodges
Hardee Hodges
1 year ago
Reply to  Johann Strauss

The real promise lies with modular small nuclear reactors that allow re-processing of coal to a cleaner fuel. But the cost of reprocessing likely mean leave coal alone to become a future fuel where needs (aircraft, etc) are met by nature, meanwhile allow those modular reactors into local energy blocks and microgrids. That future is obvious and the greens need to be silenced by wiser heads.

Norman Powers
Norman Powers
1 year ago

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. 

Mmm, really. Then why does the graph show US prices remaining low and stable?

Andy Ballard
Andy Ballard
1 year ago
Reply to  Norman Powers

Because liquefaction capacity acts as a bottleneck to US exports. Do you think US producers would sell at such lower price domestically if they had the opportunity to sell it into Europe at a huge margin?

Simon Denis
Simon Denis
1 year ago
Reply to  Norman Powers

Precisely. Has the poor fool never heard of supply and demand? The more you produce, the lower the price – especially if, thanks to proximity of production, the transport costs go down as well. The fact is, then, that fracking would indeed ease our lot; that wind does not blow consistently, other than from the orifices of the MSM, and that thanks to green bigotry we are up the spout. The hippies are indeed to blame – or rather their unlovely progeny, the “woke”.

Cheryl Jones
Cheryl Jones
1 year ago
Reply to  Norman Powers

Why? Why not focus on energy self sufficiency at home? I think energy should be totally nationalised, it’s too important to be left to the ‘markets’ and the money men

Andrew Sainsbury
Andrew Sainsbury
1 year ago
Reply to  Cheryl Jones

Yes and we must nationalise the supermarket sector as well for the same reason.

Cheryl Jones
Cheryl Jones
1 year ago

No I don’t agree with that however the planning and running of farms should have some oversight

Bill W
Bill W
1 year ago

I don’t blame the hippies. I blame successive governments which have consistently failed to take energy security seriously going back decades and influenced, inter alia, by environmentalist/green lobbyists. And it isn’t just the energy sector, it’s hard to think of a sector of the economy which hasn’t been affected by governments’ obsession with faux free market capitalism which has made a few very rich and a lot poorer than they should be.

Jon Hawksley
Jon Hawksley
1 year ago
Reply to  Bill W

Agreed – compounded by a failure to gather and examine the data needed to fully anticipate what will happen in the inter-linked markets that the UK is dependent on. Everything in the current crisis could have been predicted and almost certainly was by many of the individuals most closely involved. The role of management is to bring that information together to get the requisite actions taken in good time and the role of government is to get the co-ordination that is required between the different organisations – to have the overall oversight that the players do not have and take the actions the individual players cannot.
Governments can leave smoothly running markets alone but they do have to understand what is happening so that they are on top of the actions required when things change, not just running around blindfolded blaming everyone else and creating more problems with kneejerk reactions.

Last edited 1 year ago by Jon Hawksley
David Morley
David Morley
1 year ago

The whole just-in-time system is a disaster waiting to happen. Not just in energy but food too. It is predicated on stability and the total reliability of supply. A crisis, only slightly prolonged, and everything crashes with all sorts of knock on effects.
It is also a good example of why market pressure in free markets (in many ways a good thing) can lead to negative (ie non robust) outcomes.
If your competitor is doing JIT, you have no choice but to follow suit – and everything ends up on a knife edge.

Andrew Sainsbury
Andrew Sainsbury
1 year ago
Reply to  David Morley

Apparently Toyota’s JIT model worked out better than others unti recently. JIT is not a fixed methodology and the level of robustness is a choice; which many producers will be fine-tuning after recent events!

Colin Elliott
Colin Elliott
1 year ago

There’s ‘JIT’ where retailers and other users have discovered that under normal conditions, shelves can be kept filled with minimal stock and maximum freshness, even when coming from a long way – until the day something interrupts that.
And then there’s JIT as invented by Japanese manufacturers, who discovered that by efficient movement of high-quality components, stock accumulated and within continuous manufacture can be reduced, with increased rapidity of throughput and reduced inventory. Because interruption of just one component can bring the line to a halt, great effort had to be put into ensuring the reliability of high-quality supply.

Philip Stott
Philip Stott
1 year ago

I remember reading, circa 15 years ago, a report stating that, as an island, we’re sitting on enough coal reserves to make us energy self-sufficient for roughly 400 years.

Angelique Todesco-Bond
Angelique Todesco-Bond
1 year ago

I have been musing about how the industry will fare if, within 10 years we are all driving mostly electrical vehicles. We are being told that there could be supply problems, will this not get worse if all vehicles are being fuelled by the energy grid as well. I would be really interested in hearing how this will work from anyone in the know out there.

trentvalley57uk
trentvalley57uk
1 year ago

Agreed but a real and truthful analysis must be done. It must start from scratch and include all elements of carbon to reach a definitive conclusion to determine if EV are really are substantially less carbon than usual fuels. Then account must be taken of energy availability. Will electric be rationed, Will all electric be rationed or just electric used in cars. The pathway for only the wealthy to own cars

Cheryl Jones
Cheryl Jones
1 year ago

Call me old fashioned but why isn’t anyone talking about reducing our demand? The requirement for renewables to satisfy our increasing demands is nonsensical. Why are so many lights left on all night, including big neon shop signs which are no more than advertisements for cheap plastic tat from China that we don’t need? Why are M&S complaining about export markets for chilled sandwiches? Why is increased food and energy self sufficiency not a policy? And though I’m no fan of the Insulate protestors, they have a point. Why not also make it a requirement for all new builds to be built as passive houses with excellent insulation, as standard? Solar panels? Grey water recycling? How many fewer lorry drivers would be needed if supply chains weren’t crisscrossing across the country instead of local? David Icke once made the excellent observation that fruit grown on the IOW was transported to some central processing plant in the Midlands, then brought back to the IOW, markedly less fresh, with the cost of pollution, congestion and road damage borne by the taxpayer not the supermarkets. Our whole system is nuts because profit growth is still the only mantra. Virtue signalling corporates make big shows of their wokeness and green credentials but it will never made a dent because their shareholder returns are the only thing they are really measured on.

trentvalley57uk
trentvalley57uk
1 year ago
Reply to  Cheryl Jones

Agreed but big wealthy corporates hide in the woke agenda. They raise the content of their virtue signalling to gain the loud voices of approval from the woke cult while at the same time exploiting workers at home and especially thoes abroad. They no longer have to worry about their bad practices because the woke will protect them for as long as they agree Britain is bad, institutionaly, racist and men can become women.

John Lee
John Lee
1 year ago

Britain; An island built on coal and surrounded by fish.
Let’s use our resources until better ones come along.

Andrew Sainsbury
Andrew Sainsbury
1 year ago

Big Government is at the root of all strategic problems. Energy has the ‘natural monopoly’ aspect with regards to distribution but production can be a free market. The complexity of interference by the state makes it effectively a soviet-style enterprise which surprise, surprise is a failure.