I may be something of a technophobe when it comes to smartphones, tablet computers and making the DVD player work, but this Christmas the Farage household suffered no shortage of twinkling lights on the tree and a kitchen full of labour-saving devices ready for a family gathering on Christmas Day.
So when, two days before Christmas, my house on the North Downs suffered two small power cuts, I feared our well-planned festivities might be at risk. And so it was that, at 5pm, the power went completely. After the initial rush for candles and torches – and, thanks to my huge amount of fishing paraphernalia, the paraffin lamps – came the realisation that, not only did we not have any power, we didn’t have any heating either. Thank goodness the hob was gas-powered. I could boil water for washing and shaving in the kitchen.
By Christmas Eve, there were 250,000 homes across the country without power and the storm had taken lives. While it was incredibly annoying, not to mention cold, not having any power, we were not suffering anywhere near as much as those poor families who were dealing with the misery of the flooding. Their homes would take weeks of draining, insurance claims and repairs.
My hopes that the huge energy bills we all pay would lead to a quick restoration of power as crack teams of engineers got to work were scotched. David Cameron’s statement that situations like this should make us all grateful for the “big society” made me want to throw something at him. As I sat shivering, I imagined the families who were all warm and cosy as they wrapped the last of the presents by the lights of the Christmas tree. Enough was enough: it was time to decamp to my mother’s house.
Over the past few years numerous sources have warned that the lights may go out by 2015. From the CBI to energy experts and politicians, it’s been a regular cause for concern. It is unfortunate and miserable when these things happen at Christmas time but the main impact was on domestic users. With our increasingly technological society– with businesses, public services and even traffic lights reliant on electricity and computers – what will happen if we fail to get a grip on our power supply?
The weather we can’t control but just how bad can our government be if there is even a prospect of regular power cuts due to their ineptitude?
This newspaper’s line has, in recent history, been one of the need for renewable energy sources and the risks of global warming and climate change. We’ve had EU agreements on CO2 emissions affecting everything from car tax to cows, and this culminated in the 2008 Climate Change Act, lorded over by none other than Ed Miliband. It was decided: the UK was going to run on wind turbines. Only five MPs voted against the Bill. With the discoveries of shale gas opening up new potential sources of cheaper power and a supply of money that could be used to ease the burden of elderly care, the EU is interfering with that, too.
Power matters; man-made climate change is doubtful. On top of that, the UK produces only about 2 per cent of the world’s CO2 emissions, and when India and China are building four coal-fired power stations every week it does seem, to put it politely, as though we are cutting off our nose and damaging our economy to spite our face. And what are the risks? Well, I know that plenty of people are given air time on the BBC to tell us that the storms are due to a high number of people driving around in cars with big engines but the fact is that the main risk comes from a lack of cheap, reliable power. People die without heating, without lights, without hospital machines. And this obsession with wind turbines causes expensive energy. Our businesses cannot compete with companies whose governments have not made stupid decisions about energy policy. While we have decided that ruining the countryside with bird chompers is the answer, China is using coal and the US is using shale.
Even EU Commissioner Antonio Tajani said in September that he feared a European “industrial massacre” sparked by energy costs that would blight efforts to reverse years of manufacturing decline. When an EU bureaucrat has woken up to the dangers of our obsession with renewable energy and climate change but Westminster is content with looking the other way, I am concerned.
Securing our energy supply is one of the most important priorities of the Government and it is one that must be controlled by the UK. The sheer inconvenience caused by a few days of domestic power outage is nothing compared with what could happen if our government continues to look the other way and ignores the impending supply crisis.