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Will renewable energy bankrupt England?

By Dennis T. Avery
web posted October 17, 2011

 "When people on average earnings start to fall into 'fuel poverty,' it is clear that Britain is in the grip of a living standards crisis," leads the UK's Daily Express of Oct. 12. "On current trends every British household on a middling income will be defined as living in fuel poverty within four years . . . add in the bills for running a car and the picture becomes bleaker still . . . All the old complacent assumptions about Britain being a securely prosperous country must be jettisoned."

One-fourth of British households may be forced into "fuel poverty" by 2015 as the British government raises electricity and gas taxes to invest in more high-cost renewable energy -- especially high-cost and erratic offshore wind turbines.

"So it is time for Britain to abandon unilateral and unrealistic targets for cutting CO2 emissions, especially where they will only be achieved by investing a fortune in prohibitively expensive 'renewable' sources of energy," concludes the Daily Express

The costs of British electricity have doubled since 2004, and are expected to rise another 20 percent this year. The German Deutschbank predicts another 25 percent rise by 2015 as the UK pours billions of public dollars -- from both the Treasury and higher consumer billing -- into the big steel barges and the tall turbine towers.

"'Radical policy change' may be necessary to protect millions of struggling families from the biggest household price shock since the 1970s," writes Sean Poulter in the Daily Mail of Oct. 12, quoting London financial analysts. Meanwhile, Poulter says, with the worst unemployment figures for 17 years, the Institute for Fiscal Studies found families are about to endure their biggest income drop in over 35 years (a collapse which, incidentally, brought Margaret Thatcher to power).

Put another way, the British cost of electricity is rising about six times as fast as British household incomes, according to David Blair in the Financial Times of Oct. 11. He predicts the steady rise in electricity and gas charges could force the government to reconsider spending L200 billion on new infrastructure by 2020, especially that big expansion of wind power.

"If the rate of increase continues, it would concentrate minds even further and energy costs would rise potentially to the top of the public's agenda and therefore of the political agenda," Blair quotes David Hunter, an energy consultant. Mr. Hunter described the costs as "eye-watering." 

Meanwhile, Lord David Young, the former UK Secretary for Trade and Industry, said in the London Times, "No one can doubt that we are going through a period of global warming. A few weeks ago I was at an Inuit settlement on the west coast of Greenland where they have seen five months of sea ice a year reduced to less than a month. . . . Cold weather [persisted in England however] between the 15th and 19th centuries when the Thames would freeze over and frost fairs were held. It was said in Roman times, when we were going through a warm period, that English wine was famous. . . . Our climate is always changing" 

Lord Young warns, "in an age of few political beliefs, the cause of climate change [has become] an end in itself. . . . Only recently the Government Chief Scientist, no less, forecast that by the end of the century, Antarctica would be the only habitable continent."

But he notes that there has been no global warming trend since 1998. "Are we absolutely certain that the main cause of global warming is carbon and has nothing to do with the output of the Sun, or any of the other theories?" he asked. "It would be unfortunate if history recalled that we solved a problem that in the end did not require a solution by tipping [Britain's economy] into a depression." ESR

Dennis T. Avery, a senior fellow for the Hudson Institute in Washington, D.C., is an environmental economist. He was formerly a senior analyst for the Department of State. He is co-author, with S. Fred Singer of Unstoppable Global Warming Every 1500 Years. Readers may write to him at PO Box 202 Churchville, VA 2442; email to cgfi@hughes.net or visit us at www.cgfi.org.


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