People will die this winter because of the environmentalist obsession with the end of the world, writes Jacob Rees-Mogg.
Green energy is far more expensive than fossil fuels Photo: AFP/Getty Images
Jacob Rees-Mogg, MP
By Jacob Rees-Mogg
There is sometimes an almost vindictive streak in politics whereby governments follow policies which they know will harm the electorate but nonetheless they keep them, sometimes for years. The Corn Laws are a classic example. They were defended on the need to secure the prosperity of agriculture which provided so much employment, even if that increased the price of bread for those living in cities. It enriched the landowners who made up a good proportion of the political nation, so served self-interest as well as the poor farm labourer.
Eventually, in an act of great boldness, Sir Robert Peel split the Tory party and pushed through the abolition of the Corn Laws on the back of Whig votes in the House of Commons. This helped reduce the price of bread which was the mainstay of the average Britonís diet. However, these laws had lasted for 31 years in peace time, often to the serious detriment of the people.
In the 2010s it is not the price of bread that is falsely and unnecessarily inflated by obstinate politicians but that of energy. There are cheap sources of energy either available or possible but there is a reluctance to use them. Coal is plentiful and provides the least expensive electricity per megawatt, while fracking may provide a boon of shale gas. Unfortunately, coal-fired power stations are being shut down because of European Union regulations and shale gas exploration is moving at a slow pace.
It is against this background that energy companies have announced price rises. The regulations imposed by the Government underlie them and additional green taxes exacerbate the situation. The expansion of relatively expensive nuclear power at £92.50 per megawatt, almost double the current market price, is justified by some because it is cheaper than the quite unnecessary wind schemes. But it is much more expensive than coal or gas and these high energy prices which punish the poor most particularly are a matter of choice not of necessity.
The reason this has been done is, of course, because of climate change fears. But is it a reasonable or proportionate response? It is widely accepted that carbon dioxide emissions have risen but the effect on the climate remains much debated while the computer modelling that has been done to date has not proved especially accurate. Sceptics remember that computer modelling was behind the collapse of Lehman Brothers and the global financial crisis; common sense dictates that if the Meteorological Office cannot forecast the next seasonís weather with any success it is ambitious to predict what will happen decades ahead. However, even if all their fears are right the influence of the United Kingdom is limited. This country is responsible for under 2 per cent of global emissions so even if the British freeze and industry is made uncompetitive it will not save the world.
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Eschatological fears are an ancient human concern. The Romans expected the world to end in 634 BC owing to a prophecy involving twelve eagles while the early Christians anticipated the Final Judgement in their own lifetimes. Pope Sylvester II thought AD 1000 would be the last year, a view updated for the modern age by the Millennium bug.
Clearly expectations of a final disaster are part of manís psychology and the doomsayers of the quasi religious Green movement fit the bill. Perhaps one day the world will end, giving the last group to predict it the satisfaction of being right Ė but as many have been wrong so far it does not seem wise to make public policy on the back of these fears.
In the 1830s the average price of a quarter of corn was £2 16s 2d compared to the Prussian price (including the cost of freight to London) of £1 10s 5d. Even after the average tariff of 7s 2d was added imported corn ought still to have been cheaper but such was the acceptance of high prices and the reluctance to import that the market did not adjust. Something similar seems to be happening to the energy market. As the Government has made the price higher so the energy companies put a margin on top. High prices are almost expected.
The solution to this is to free the market, not to control prices which will simply reduce supply. Hence the time has come to copy Sir Robert Peel. He saw that the Corn Laws made the condition of the people worse. Modern politicians know that their constituents will suffer this winter and some may die because they cannot afford fuel. This can be stopped by ending the environmentalist obsession and delivering cheap energy.
Jacob Rees-Mogg is the Conservative MP for North East Somerset