The current lead story for the Daily Telegraph highlights the mixture of hauteur, obduracy and paternalism of an administration which has enacted policies designed to force up energy bills (for those dubious CAGW reasons) and is now trying to advise the public on the results:
David Cameron believes that millions of people facing rising energy bills should consider “wrapping up warm” and wearing jumpers, Downing Street has said.
The comments are likely to provoke anger from people struggling to cope with the rising cost of living.
The last sentence belongs in the “no shit, Sherlock” category.
Heating bills are as high as they are in large part because energy is produced not, by and large, under unfettered laissez faire capitalism – as it should be – but in rigged and heavily taxed conditions. The details are complex, but as far as the UK goes, it has been a Conservative/Labour/Liberal Democrat consensus that certain types of energy (carbon-based) should be heavily taxed. Taxes are costs and as the simplest businessman will know, such costs will either manifest themselves in higher prices, or lower output of services/products, or weaker returns on investment, or some combination of all three. There are, of course, other reasons for high energy bills, such geopolitics and our reliance on sources of oil, for example, from the Middle East.
We have an electricity industry that is now very close to not being able to cope with a harsh winter, according to various press reports. The government, unable or unwilling to be honest with itself about the issue, or face up to the mounting evidence about the dubious science on which anti-carbon ideas are based, is reduced to lecturing the public about wearing more clothes.
The former US president, Jimmy Carter, is remembered for some lamentable things in American life (although in fairness he did at least appoint Paul Volcker to the Fed and some industries got deregulated under Carter’s term). And one thing this man is remembered for is how he wore a woolly jumper in the White House to save on heating bills. He wasn’t doing that out of frugal fiscal policy, which might have been admirable, but because of the-then energy crisis to which his own policies contributed. (Price controls, etc).
David Cameron had better realise that a repeat of an energy crunch in the next year or so (blackouts, freezing weather, people dying of cold), will finish him off and his style of politics for some time to come. As for the rest of us, the demise of his brand of Toryism cannot come a moment too soon. A couple of years ago, when he and his finance minister were making nasty noises about the need to tax low-cost flights, I was reminded of that remark that the Duke of Wellington is said to have made about the-then new railways – he disliked trains as they encouraged the masses to move about. I cannot help but notice a certain parallel with how Cameron views the public – except that Wellington won a lot of battles.