‘Greener food and greener fuel’ is the promise of Ensus, a firm that opened Europe’s largest (£250 million) bio-ethanol plant at Wilton on Teesside last year, and has now shut it down for lack of profitable customers. This is actually the second shut-down at the plant — which takes subsidies and turns them into motor fuel — the first being a three-week refit to try to stop the stench bothering the neighbours.
Welcome to the neo-medieval world of Britain’s energy policy. It is a world in which Highland glens are buzzing with bulldozers damming streams for miniature hydro plants, in which the Dogger Bank is to be dotted with windmills at Brobdingnagian expense, in which Heathrow is to burn wood trucked in from Surrey, and Yorkshire wheat is being turned into motor fuel. We are going back to using the landscape to generate our energy….
The government’s craven decision…to placate the green pressure groups by agreeing a unilateral and tough new carbon rationing target of 50 per cent for 2027 — they wanted to water it down, but were frightened of being taken to judicial review by Greenpeace — condemns Britain to ruining yet more of its landscape. Remember that it takes a wind farm the size of Greater London to generate as much electricity as a single coal-fired power station — on a windy day (on other days we will have to do without). . . .
Yet this ruthless violation of the landscape is not even the most medieval aspect of the government’s energy policy. Its financing would embarrass even the Sheriff of Nottingham. Every renewable project, from offshore wind farms to rooftop solar panels to bio-ethanol plants, is paid for by a stealth poll tax levied from everybody’s electricity bills called the renewable obligation (RO).
The RO already adds an astonishing £1.1 billion a year to the electricity bills of Britons; by 2020 it could be £8 billion, or 30 per cent extra. Unlike the poll tax, which was merely not progressive, this tax is highly regressive. It robs the poor — including those too poor to pay income tax — and hands much of the money to the landed rich in three different ways: higher wheat and wood prices; rents for wind farms; and the iniquitous ‘feed-in tariff’, by which the person who produces electricity by ‘renewable’ means is paid three times the market rate. . . .
It had better be worth it. The sole intended benefit you will get from all this pain is lower carbon emissions. Not a guarantee of a cooler climate, because Britain is such a trivial part of the world economy, and carbon dioxide’s effect on climate is one of several factors. But at least it will give William Hague a warm glow of satisfaction in showing the Chinese what he calls ‘the UK’s international moral leadership on the issue’.
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