It is a truism that all politicians dissemble. It is also a truism that politicians like to add their voices to a row that has already broken out. This past fortnight or so has seen particularly bad examples of both of these as our elected representatives past and present lay in to the power companies for doing what private companies always do - make money for their shareholders.
Names prominent in the brouhaha have been Ed Miliband, Michael Fallon, Chris Huhne and Sir John Major. All of these characters have demonstrated their complete lack of any sense of either history or irony by shouting in the mass media against policies or effects that are the direct results of their own actions. They can all be accused of the crime of being shameless gits.
However, the current Climate Secretary, the Rt Hon Ed Davey MP FRSA (above), may be liable to being accused of the crime of murder in Scotland. In fact, mass murder.
This is not a joke, and this suggestion is not made lightly.
Many people have become extremely worked up over recent and imminent rises in the price of household energy (mains gas and electricity and, by association, LPG and kerosene). Politicians have rushed to the airwaves to condemn the profiteering of the power companies and the power companies have retaliated by complaining about the various regulations, levies and taxes imposed upon them by the politicians. In this case it seems that power companies may have the better point.
For several years now – ever since Ed Miliband promulgated the Climate Change Act 2008 – the government of the day has taken steps to reduce the total UK emissions of carbon dioxide by two deliberate course of action. These are to: 1) artificially load the price of carbon-based fuels to make them less attractive in the generation market; and 2) to subsidise (apparently) low- or non-carbon-based methods of generation to allow them to take an increasing proportion of the UK generating capacity.
The rationale behind the Climate Change Act appears to be this:-
There is a problem because
- Human activity is increasing the level of atmospheric carbon dioxide
- Rising levels of atmospheric carbon dioxide will lead to global warming
- Global warming will induce extra future carbon dioxide emissions from natural sources
- Positive feedback mechanisms will increasingly induce further carbon dioxide emissions
- This vicious circle will continue until catastrophe endangers human life on the planet
- This is considered to be an emergency, so drastic measures are necessary.
The proposed solution to the supposed problem is
- Human activity causing emissions of carbon dioxide must be reduced or halted quickly
- Lower emissions can be achieved most effectively by reducing the amount of carbon-based fuels burned in electricity generation and transport
- This required reduction can be achieved most effectively by increasing the cost of carbon-based electricity compared to other types of generation
- Because the costs of generating electricity by novel (or non-carbon) methods is high, normal market forces will not apply, so
- The price of carbon-based electricity must be artificially inflated so as to make it less attractive compared to novel generation, and
- Generation from carbon-based fuels must be made less economic by rationing via a rigged market in carbon permits, and
- Novel methods of generation must be subsidised so as to encourage their development and adoption
- These subsidies must be “self-financing” by means of artificial levies on fuel bills.
It can be seen from this summary that the whole point of the Climate Change Act was to create the increased prices that our elected representatives are now moaning so loudly about. It did not occur to those people responsible for implementing this Act (or for selling off the country's generating capacity in the first place) that the inevitable consequence of these changes would be to increase the cost of electricity to the consumer and to industry. Now it must be obvious, even to them.
Increases in price due to commercial pressures are to be expected and are unavoidable in a free market. In fact, the distribution companies seem to be only making about 5% profit, which is not really very much. It is less transparent what the margins are for the generating companies.
The increases in price due to political action are entirely avoidable, and are supposedly completely within the purview of the Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change. He is responsible for - directly and indirectly - adding large and increasing amounts of cost on to the domestic power bills of consumers in the UK. These artificially high bills are increasingly driving poorer consumers into “fuel poverty” and causing excessive numbers of deaths in cold weather. Whether these deaths are the result of a lack of heating because the consumer's power has been cut off or as a result of the consumer making a conscious decision not to use available heating is immaterial: in many cases the lack of heat will be a direct or indirect consequence of the rising cost of power.
Scottish law is different from English law. Particularly germane to this discussion is the definition of murder that is usually used in Scottish courts. Contrary to the position in England, where murder must be the consequence of a conscious act, in Scotland it is defined as “Unlawful killing of another with intent to kill, or with wicked recklessness to life” (my emphasis).
We can see that in Scotland there need be no intention to deliberately kill a person or even to know any person in the country; if “wicked recklessness” causes a death, that death is capable of being classed as murder.
It seems to this blog that the case for artificially inflating power bills to pay for the “de-carbonisation” of our electricity generating infrastructure is so poor as to be reckless. Recklessness could be explained away as the result of simple ignorance, although this is unlikely ever to be accepted as a legal defence. “Wicked recklessness” would only be proven if the action continued after the actor was placed in full possession of the facts. It is inconceivable that the UK's Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change is not in possession of all of the relevant facts, including the recent Inter-governmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) AR5 reports, which have drastically rowed back from the projections of doom contained in earlier IPCC reports.
Just in case the Secretary of State is less well informed than this humble blogger, I will be writing to him to inform him of the relevant facts and to ask him to consider whether his behaviour is indeed wickedly reckless. In the case of an unsatisfactory answer from Whitehall, I shall be complaining to the Chief Constable of Police Scotland.
I'll keep you informed.
This was always intended to be the fourth and last instalment of a series. Part 2 is here and you can work back from there. Part 3 was intended to be a critique of the European Emissions Trading Scheme but it seems to have already collapsed under the weight of its own absurdity.