At first glance, the government’s long-delayed bid to break Britain’s addiction to gas heating for decades is well timed as the nation prepares for a winter energy crisis.
In a few months, the gas supply crisis is expected to plunge hundreds of thousands of households into fuel poverty for the first time, causing many energy suppliers to stagnate, shut down factories and tear up the economy while the UK attempts to mount a post-pandemic recovery. As one energy industry leader said last month, “There really isn’t any part of the current energy crisis that wouldn’t be better if we depended less on fossil fuels.”
So, the good news is that as early as this week, ministers can unveil plans for a scheme that will pay households to dispose of their gas boilers in favor of a low-carbon alternative, such as part of his long-awaited “heat and buildings.” climate strategy.
The scheme, which reports suggest it could offer £ 5,000 to households ready to put aside their dependence on fossil fuels, could prove to be a tempting prospect for homes currently facing one of the strongest increases. of energy bills recorded this winter due to record highs in the gas market. all over the world.
It is certainly an attractive opportunity for government ministers in the weeks leading up to Cop26’s climate talks, following a series of deeply unhelpful climate policy scams that threaten to undermine the UK’s credibility as a host.
In addition to plans to develop hydrogen as an alternative to fossil fuels for heavy industry and transport, the latest strategy would reduce global UK gas demand, which in turn would mean that future prices for market for him would not reach recent highs and would have a more limited effect on the economy even if they did.
But make no mistake: for the approaching winter, the dice are rolled. Scrap gas boilers can help prevent a recurrence of this winter’s energy crisis in the medium to long term, but they will prove a cold comfort for households with cash problems or besieged energy companies struggling to keep up. se to the surface while supplying the gas that is so attractive. electricity in the coming months.
For the next term, the government will apparently rely on silly luck. Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng told energy companies last week that they should welcome the Met Office’s first suggestions that next winter may be mild. He later denied that the government’s plan was to cross his fingers, but the comment nonetheless underscores his voluntarily obtuse approach to the crisis.
A mild winter would certainly help, but only to prevent a further escalation of energy market prices. It would do little to lower the current market price of gas, which is more than six times higher than last year.
Kwarteng has also insisted that homes are safe from the worst rise in energy costs thanks to the government’s energy price cap and that the economy will continue to have secure gas and electricity supplies. These claims are true, but only if you ignore the issue of affordability, which is a denied luxury in most of the country.
There may be a limit to protect households from making a profit and there may be enough gas molecules entering the pipes to meet demand, but if you can’t afford to pay your bills, the gas is so absent as absent. The government’s move to safeguard the country’s energy future is commendable, if done late. But ignoring the urgent concerns of this unfolding crisis is complacency at its worst.
The government deviates from the principle of high pay at first
One of the few arguments for Brexit that was convincing to progressives was that the highest paid could benefit; that too many British workers had seen wages undermined for the benefit of employers. This is the notion the prime minister has come to understand in recent weeks, as the shortage of heavy vehicle drivers emptied shelves and watched as fuel stations dried up. Boris Johnson, despising a serious commitment to the crises he has presided over, said it would be good to increase drivers ’salaries.
Now, however, the government’s decision to relax the cabotage rules for foreign carriers suggests that this demonstration of principles was barely worth a festive pig on a blanket. With the intention of extending legal driving hours, loosening test requirements and offering temporary visas, the government has engaged in cabotage, allowing foreign companies to make additional deliveries abroad.
These rules were already a minor defeat in the transition agreement: Britain had admitted that its transport companies would only be allowed extra work abroad, compared to two for EU trucks that delivered in the UK. Large European carriers can now send their drivers to make unlimited additional deliveries within two weeks.
Transport associations, here and in Europe, are clear on who will benefit: the multinationals who pushed for change and are already linking cheap labor from the eastern margins of the EU to work in the west, with wages lower legal requirements and in poor condition.
Once again, Brexit has not equalized the playing field: in fact, it has hampered the competitiveness of British companies and burdened them with bureaucracy. And now ministers open the game to those who play by different rules. As a reaction to the driver’s shortage, it is unedifying; if it persists, it suggests that Brexit was not hard, but porous and utterly self-defeating.
It’s scary how many good benefits Frankenfoods has for all of us
The climate agenda is currently focused on electric cars and renewable energy, however, and the foods we eat? World food production is responsible for a third of all global warming gases emitted by human activity, with meat-raising animals causing twice as much pollution from food production. plant origin.
In the UK, sales of meat and dairy substitutes are on the rise as consumers indulge in bleeding vegan burgers and chicken-free seeds. The latest trend is fake fish, with maker KitKat Nestlé adding Vrimp (essentially a shrimp without prawns) to a store closet that already includes Vuna (a tuna substitute) and tall meat.
At this month’s launch, Mark Schneider, Nestlé’s CEO, said the company had reached the “carbon peak” several years ago and was now going down. He said the biggest challenge in reducing the environmental damage it caused was emissions of greenhouse gases from agricultural raw materials, including beef and dairy, that go into its products, generating two-thirds of the total. .
It is estimated that a group of about ten food and retail companies, including Nestlé, has a key influence on approximately 40% of Europe’s agricultural land. A shift to selling more vegetable food may just be good news.
With their seemingly weird names and sometimes extravagant ingredients, tall meat and dairy products can be dismissed as “Frankenfoods” (in fact, there are ultra-processed, calorie-laden examples), but it’s also a area full of startups working hard to create good alternatives to your favorite meat or fish dish.
As Schneider says, “If everyone rebalances their diet a little bit: enjoy your steak when it’s very important to you, but opt for the plant-based alternative when you do it so well. Then, if I think we’re already doing it a great favor to our health and the environment ”.