Friday, July 15, 2011

Chris Huhne and Fuel Poverty

Picture this: You implement policies that are deliberately designed to make energy usage expensive. This you justify on the grounds that it will reduce carbon emmissions. Of course you implement the policy by levying various taxes and additional charges on the power companies and big users of energy (such as the NHS, for example). The energy companies pass the charges on to the consumer, as expected. What's more the systems are so complex that it's not easily possible for the consumer to see how much of the increased cost is down to 'green' policies and how much is down to increased wholesale costs or a desire to increase margins.

In any case, the consumer just gets to see increased power costs. What do you, as the author of these policies do? You pin the blame on the energy companies and encourage users to switch to different providers. Which providers? You know for a fact that all providers will be increasing their charges. But it makes you look good, and you can even convince yourself that you're standing up for the little guy.

When the number of families in fuel power rises, how do you react? With outrage of course. You promise to tackle this injustice, and, as befits a man of principle, you will look at rebates, or tax breaks or some such policy. In other words you will take some of the money that you have grabbed and give a little of it back. And you'll do this by increasing dependence on the state, by increasing the complexity of the tax and benefits system and ultimately by enlarging the state. What you will not do is directly reduce the green levies or make changes to any of your energy policies.

And, just as importantly, you will continue with the narative that the world needs saving from CO2, that the real culprits are the energy companies and that the only defender of the poor is the state.

It's a nice picture, it really is. Chris Huhne really is pissing on our shoes and telling us it's raining.

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