People have taken to the streets to protest against energy price rises around the UK this weekend. This is not normal. The only time during Tony Blair’s first two terms as prime minister that Labour lost its lead in the opinion polls was in 2000, when lorry drivers disrupted fuel supplies in protest against the rising price of petrol and diesel. As a result, the government abandoned the gradual increase in fuel taxes that had been planned, partly as a green measure.
Now the situation is more serious, in that the rise in the price of natural gas in particular is driving up domestic energy bills for gas and electricity in a way that is going to cause serious hardship. Consumers had been protected until now from the five-fold increase in the world price of natural gas since a year ago, mostly caused by faster than expected economic growth as countries emerged from lockdowns. Last week the price cap on most UK domestic bills was raised by the regulator, and now the pain will be felt.
The government is paralysed. The prime minister promised an energy strategy in the next few days, rather more than a few days ago. It may be published this week, or it may not, according to government sources – who plainly have no idea themselves. When it comes, the document will contain familiar ideas for increasing the supply of gas from the North Sea and of electricity from offshore wind, as well as plans to insulate homes and build “mini” nuclear power stations.
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