I had thought that we were making some progress on the energy debate; much of the political flannel has been abandoned, and common sense seemed to be in the ascendency. There was consensus growing that de-carbonisation is a good thing overall, but not at any price – and the need to guarantee our ability to be competitive in a global economy should not be subordinated to the enthusiasms of the renewable energy zealots.
Indeed, the recent announcements by the Government on carbon capture and storage and clean energy infrastructure have been awaited by a number of us for a long time. The Chancellor appeared to have wrestled away some – though by no means enough – of the more ridiculous energy obsessions expressed by those Liberal Democrat ministers responsible for this area of policy.
And then there was the contribution of the Climate Change Committee. Now, I don’t object to everything that they say, but their assertion that an attachment to de-carbonisation at any price is absurd. Notwithstanding the implications for our economy of continuing the kamikaze mission favouring particular (and inefficient) technologies, the likely impact on the environment will be negligible, as jobs and manufacturing is, effectively, exported to other parts of the globe not attached to this nonsense.
The high priests of the Committee on Climate Change may feel that increased energy bills are a price worth paying to see our countryside littered with inefficient wind farms, but that is not a view shared among businesses and households across our country. They may feel that the fourth carbon budget (for the period to 2027) cannot be amended, but we need to shape our approach to de-carbonisation in response to the state of innovation and the broader context.
They accept that ‘significant costs’ will be incurred by acting sooner, but seem just to shrug their shoulders at the difficulty that imposes on many household budgets.
For me, this issue is not about a dogged attachment to any of the alternative visions which are presented by the various enthusiasts of any individual technology or approach. As a businessman, we must guarantee that the economic climate in which we operate is best shaped to ensure our prosperity and success.
I was never particularly comfortable with the zealotry associated with the Climate Change Act; and the obsession with renewable technologies has come at a very high price indeed. I wonder what use the Committee on Climate Change serves unless it takes a more considered view of the impact on our economy of the pursuit of its vision. My advice is for the Government to take this counsel with a very substantial dose of caution…