Sunday, October 27, 2013

Energy policy and changing facts

A few years ago all three party leaders were keen to showcase their green credentials. Now they are keen to prove that they are concerned about the price of energy.

Does this make them all hypocrites? Not necessarily, if they are open and honest about the course of events and about why they have adjusted their policies to meet changing circumstances.

Hence my "Quote of the day" from Keynes this morning, "When the facts change, I change my mind."

The "green taxes" on energy which Ed Miliband introduced when he was secretary of state for energy and climate change, and which currently represent something of the order of 10% of the average family's power bill, had two purposes

1) To provide an incentive for companies and firms alike to save energy, and

2) To fund some of the measures which are necessary to control pollution.

In the circumstance which we now find ourselves, energy prices are high enough to be very painful for families and businesses alike even without those taxes. Quite high enough to provide strong incentives to save energy.

So it is not necessary to keep putting up taxes on energy to meet objective 1) above.

Consequently, if other ways can be found to fund the necessary  measures to restrict emissions and meet objective 2) above, the policy of high tax on energy can be modified or abandoned without jeopardising the commitment to protect the environment.

Therefore a politician who changes his or her policy on energy bills can be responding to different circumstances without being a hypocrite.

It would only become hypocrisy if someone were disingenuous about the fact that he or she had changed his or her policies or pretend that his or her past actions had not happened - for example, if Ed Miliband were to pretend that the whole of the recent increase in energy prices is the result of coalition policies and the green taxes he introduced - and the effect of his recent speech - had nothing to do with them.

Perhaps what is more important is not the blame game, or making a competition of which rival party can be accused of being the biggest hypocrite, but sorting out the best policy to cotnrol the costs to hard working people and businesses without jeopardising either energy supplies of the environment.

The main problem with Ed Miliband's energy prices is not about whether he is being a hypocrite (arguable) or has changed his policies (he has) but the fact that it just won't work, has already probably made this year's price increases worse, and might increase the risk of power cuts by putting off investors.

The coalition needs to agree and put into effect an alternative strategy to curb bills which will not sabotage the investment Britain needs to avoid power cuts or abandon our commitment to protect the environment. 


Jim said...

Strange isn't it. Two weeks ago it was all Red Eds fault. Now following reminders, its changing facts, not bad ideas

Guessing you must have had a peveiw of bookers column this morning, cant think from where.

Chris Whiteside said...

I stand by everything I wrote a week ago and a fortnight ago about Miliband having put prices up.

Nor is there any change in my position that his price freeze won't work.

I can't recall ever saying, however, that energy price rises are "all" Miliband's fault, and I'm not saying so now.

I've not seen the Booker column.

Chris Whiteside said...

Have now read the Booker column, thank's for the link.

I don't by a long way agree with everything he says, but it is fair to point out that all the parties supported green taxes at the time they were originally introduced.