Rising energy prices aren’t just about greedy energy companies, it signifies the end of our fossil fuel driven economy.
There has been much debate in recent months about what to do regarding soaring energy prices. Ed Milliband proposed freezing energy prices, but the move seems ineffective as there is nothing to stop energy companies increasing prices before and after the freeze. The current government is opposed to price fixing and instead argues there is a need to increase competition to lower prices, but it is no means certain this can be achieved or would be effective.
One part of the price of people’s bills that the government can control is the green levies and many people see removing these as a way of lowering bills. Energy companies have declared that they would lower fuel prices with the removal of the green levies, and Cameron was reported to have said its time to ‘get rid of the green crap’. It seems that Cameron has reneged on his earlier promise to make his government the greenest ever and and his time with the huskies in the Arctic and the changing of the Conservative logo to a green tree seem a long time ago.
However, it would be wrong to consider the green levies as a luxury that we can’t afford and adding unnecessary costs to fuel bills. The main reason for rising costs is the increasing wholesale price of gas. Gas is a non-renewable energy and as supplies deplete in the future the cost is only going to continue soaring.
Some people see fracking as the answer, but it would only be a short term solution to the energy crisis because once all the gas has been extracted we are back at the same problem again. And whilst fracking might provide a new supply of cheap energy, it is important not to lose sight of the bigger issues regarding global warming and the UK’s commitment to reducing Co2; targets that would be more difficult to meet with fracking and the continual exploitation of fossil fuels. If anything the recent gales and floods should remind people that severe weather events will become more common due to global warming and its an issue that shouldn’t be put on the back burner due to difficult economic times.
Green levies and investment in renewables therefore shouldn’t be seen as an inconvenient or unnecessary cost. They are essential to supply the nations future energy needs. Politics is often about the short term, decreasing energy prices now. What is needed is a more visionary long term politics. In the future the world will be based on low carbon economies and it is essential that the UK takes the lead in this. Britain was the dominant economy in the nineteenth century due to being the first nation to truly exploit the power of steam, and the US dominated the twentieth century based on its exploitation of oil. The countries that take the lead in developing new green technologies and are the first to make the transition to a low carbon economy will be the countries that will be the most successful in the next century. Countries like the US that are still addicted to cheap oil, and have an economy and infrastructures based on an oil economy, such as suburban living and out of town shopping markets, will face the greatest disadvantages in the future.
If the UK continues to rely on fossil fuels for its future energy then rising energy bills will continue as we past peak oil and gas extraction and wholesale prices continue to increase. Green levies and investment are therefore vital in securing future cleaner, cheaper and reliable supplies. Whilst there is a case for green investment to come out of general taxation rather than from household bills and so not being such a burden on poorer households, green energy is an investment that is vital for the future of our country.