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Energy: Tory tribalism

Richard North, 24/10/2013  


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One of the less attractive traits of party politics (and there are many) is the tendency to blame the other side for whatever disaster is currently in vogue. And so we have Mr Cameron at PMQs pledging to cut back on "green charges" and then, in the same breath, blaming Labour for the problems.

Yet this is from "husky Dave", the man who told us that we could "vote blue" and "get green". This is the man who voted for Labour's Climate Change Act, along with most of his shadow cabinet. This is the man whose party, when confronted with Labour's plans for micro-generators to supply two percent of our electricity, with the feed-in tariff costing £8.6 billion by 2030, wanted the proportion increased to 15 percent, at a cost of £60 billion.

This is a party which, when it heard Labour's announcement on Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS), wanted the government to go further and faster.

And this is the party which, in government, devised and supported the Carbon Floor Tax, an own goal which is set to put up the price of electricity far beyond that which the rest of Europe will be paying.

Then, this is the party which, along with its coalition allies decided on a programme of "low carbon generation" which is set to double our energy bills by 2020 – a target the Conservatives are well on their way to achieving.

But now, when the consequences of what have been deliberate policy are now beginning to be apparent, Mr Cameron is running away from his own folly and seeking to blame someone else.

The problem, though, is that energy policy requires long-term planning.  Decades of policy neglect and support for green activism cannot be reversed overnight. Coal-fired generation plants which have been allowed to run down, prior to closure, cannot be brought back into use. The regulatory overload, which has doubled the price of nuclear generation, cannot easily be reversed, and the wind subsidies are already contracted and cannot be ended immediately.

For the Conservatives to have made an impact, the time to be formulating policy was five years ago, when Mr Cameron was still locked in his "green" phase. Even then, there were plenty of warnings, and the consequences of neglect were entirely predictable. But, having missed the opportunity to come up with a sensible policy, the prime minister has nobody to blame but himself.

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