Don’t cut speed limits to beat Putin Business

Following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, it is clear to almost everyone that we need to stop buying its oil and gas.

We have already sanctioned the oligarchs, most large corporations have withdrawn their products from the market, and access to the global financial system has been closed.

And yet, as long as Europe, including the United Kingdom which buys much of its diesel from Russia, continues to send up to $800 million a day directly to Moscow in exchange for its oil and its gas, we are actually funding the war.

It has to stop, and stop as soon as possible. The sooner Putin runs out of money to pay his soldiers, the sooner the conflict will be over.

The International Energy Agency, the most respected voice of global industry, presented a 10-point plan this week to reduce energy consumption to the point that we can wean ourselves off Russian oil. What do we have to do?

Apparently we should reduce speed limits on motorways by 10 km per hour (hardly news to anyone who has had a taste of the M4/M5 interchange). We should work from home three days a week. We should avoid business travel, embrace carpooling, and switch from flying to high-speed rail, assuming we ever go on vacation again.

Oh, and we should wear homemade sweaters, eat lentil soup twice a day, and only take a bath on the first Tuesday of every month.

OK, I made these up.

But you get the general idea. If there’s anything wrong with some of the ideas offered, this is a program that could have come straight from Greta Thunberg’s wish list.

“France and all European countries must get out of their dependence on fossil fuels as quickly as possible, in particular Russian fossil fuels”, according to the French Minister for Ecological Transition Barbara Pompili presenting the action plan at a conference in press Friday.

“It is an absolute necessity, for the climate but also for our energy sovereignty.”

Well, maybe. In reality, there is a big problem with the IEA plan. There is a lot of energy available in the world, and even in Europe.

There’s a lot of oil and gas under the North Sea, it’s just that no new licenses to develop it have been granted for the past three years, and even with the war Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon always opposes further production.

We could pump that, both for the UK and to sell to the rest of the continent. There are vast reserves of shale oil and gas, both in the UK – mainly in the North where the jobs and wealth from fracking would be more than helpful – and even more in the rest of the continent, especially in France and Poland.

It’s just that we didn’t allow it to be produced, when it was found to be perfectly safe in the United States and made it energy independent.

Or, if you prefer not to develop fossil fuels, we could of course produce a lot more from alternatives.

We could speed up the installation of wind turbines or continue building a tidal barrage in the Severn Estuary; this alone could generate 7% of the UK’s electricity and cost just a quarter of the increasingly absurd fast train from London to Birmingham.

The important point is this. We can stop funding Russia’s war by increasing the production of other forms of energy, not by decreasing the consumption of everything that keeps the economy running and life good.

With every crisis that arises, a small group of awakened activists seek the same familiar solutions.

To cope with the Covid pandemic, we had to work from home, close restaurants and bars and stay at home.

To defeat the Russian invasion, we have to stop driving anywhere and turn off the heating.

We can’t say for sure what the next crisis might be, but we can be sure of one thing. No matter what it is, we’ll be told to ditch travel, go out less, stop going to the office, and stop buying everything we don’t absolutely need.

It’s ridiculous. And, in reality, a so-called expert body like the IEA should stick to reasonable predictions and data that might actually inform adult debate — and leave childish environmental activism to Extinction Rebellion and its comrades.

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This notice was published: 2022-03-18 14:38:10

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