The Climate Column

Liz Truss’s energy plans will be disastrous for our bills and the planet

Truss will oversee the greatest transfer of wealth in history, from UK families to oil and gas executives she used to work for, writes Donnachadh McCarthy

Tuesday 30 August 2022 15:10 BST
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<p>This is a genocidal suicide note to humanity</p>

This is a genocidal suicide note to humanity

The celebratory champagne corks must have popped in the headquarters of the oil and gas corporations on the day Ofgem announced the devastating rise in energy prices for poverty-stricken British consumers.

Especially after they read Liz Truss’s disastrous “response” in the Daily Mail addressing the lifting of the home energy price cap.

Truss, the former commercial manager for the oil giant Shell, proposes a massive ramping up of commercial projects by the oil corporations, including expansion of North Sea oil and gas, a resumption of fracking on the UK mainland and a frenzied building of eye-wateringly expensive new nuclear power plants.

The proposed explosion of oil and gas projects will not knock a single penny from fuel bills, as the UK’s fossil fuel industry is fully integrated into global markets, and so production will remain priced at inflated global prices for UK consumers.

And the ramping up of nuclear power will add billions to UK consumers’ bills, as nuclear energy is already over twice the cost of wind and solar and it will take decades before any new plants could reduce consumer addiction to fossil fuels.

Truss’s statement was silent on insulation or energy efficiency investments that would actually bring down bills for consumers, by reducing dependency on fossil fuels.

After the Mail’s 2011 successful “anti-green-crap” campaign – according to Carbon Brief reportedly at the instigation of the then Lord Lawson’s Global Warming Policy Foundation – destroyed the home insulation programme that was then successfully insulating 2.4 million homes a year.

If that programme had been implemented, up to 18 million UK families would have enjoyed lower bills this winter and the pressure on the UK’s electricity and gas markets would have been far lower.

Truss has not committed to lifting her government’s de-facto ban on onshore wind, the cheapest source of energy in the UK, but has promised a crackdown on solar farms. Blocking onshore wind and solar increases consumer bills and keeps us enslaved to nuclear and oil corporations.

Further thrilling the oil executives, she ruled out expanding windfall taxes on the huge profits pouring into their coffers. She also opposes “handouts” for consumers.

This means that in order to bail out millions of consumers and small businesses who are sliding into bankruptcy and destitution, she has proposed putting the entire bill onto future taxpayers, by borrowing billions for tax-cuts to enable businesses and consumers pay their bills to the fossil fuel corporations.

In a world where we need to urgently remove all subsidies from fossil fuels if we are to survive, Truss proposes to oversee the greatest transfer of wealth in history, from UK families to the executives and shareholders in her former oil industry and in the nuclear industry, with fossil fuel and nuclear subsidies on steroids.

The Mail’s editorial welcomed Truss’s pledges saying: “For too long we have been beholden to unreliable renewables and turbulent global markets – and in the latest eye-watering bills, the chickens have come home to roost. This paper welcomes her pledge to tap the North Sea’s vast oil and gas reserves, massively ramp up nuclear power and begin fracking for cheap shale gas.”

This was unsurprising, as Truss has adopted to the letter, the disastrous anti-climate action agenda advocated by the Mail for years.

Ten years ago, when renewables were more expensive than fossil fuels and nuclear-powered electricity, there was some short-term economic “logic” to such a position, even if in the medium term burning fossil fuels will literally destroy our climate and with it the global economy.

However, after a decade of rapidly falling prices for renewables, the latest contracted cost for new renewables is under £50/Mwh – for comparison, fossil-gas powered electricity is expected to hit £650/Mwh this winter.

Nuclear electricity is now also over twice the price of renewables. The Tory government recently overrode the planning inspector’s refusal of planning permission for the proposed new Sizewell C nuclear power plant, over uncertainty on where the water required to run the plant would come from.

Ministers are proposing that a nuclear levy be added to bills to fund its construction – before it produces a single kWh of electricity. And they still have nowhere to safely secure its toxic radioactive waste for the thousands of years required.

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The projects, including plans to restart earthquake-triggering fracking, will divert hundreds of billions of pounds needed to be invested in consumer-bill reducing renewables, energy efficiency and energy storage.

From a global climate protection perspective, for which Truss expects us to believe her declaration of support to the Conservative Environment Network for net zero by 2050, her message is rather that every country on earth should frenziedly exploit all of their own fossil fuels as fast as they possibly can.

This is a genocidal suicide note to humanity. Truss has shown that she is utterly unfit to lead this country. Her hard-right proposals are ruinous for the UK’s economy and ruinous for any remaining hope that the world can remain under 1.5C.

In Liz, we truly cannot trust.

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