If hot air solved the energy crisis, we could all find something else to worry about, but David Cameron’s call on Monday to cut prices smacks of the sort of Blairite claptrap that did so much damage to the language in the last decade. Energy is going to be dearer, no matter how much pressure is put on the companies that provide it, and it’s going to be a lot more expensive on the current mix of contradictory policies.

The central character here is Chris “Hapless” Huhme, distracted by the speeding ticket fiasco on one hand and enmeshed in barmy legislation passed by Labour on the other. Wearing his best “Don’t shoot this dog” expression, our dear Energy Secretary was reduced to waffling about a fair deal for all, the miracle of high profits and low prices. This is not only wrong, it’s irrelevant. He knows, or should know, that even bankrupting the nation with energy costs is not enough to cut CO2 emissions by 80% by 2050. The still more ambitious targets which the UK’s own legislation adds to the EU’s are pure fantasy. These laws are a farce: presumably, if they’re broken, the UK government will fine itself. That’ll teach it.

The European Commission also claims to have seen the future; it’s a million windmills and 20 years of rising prices. A leaked version of its report concludes that these rotating monsters will produce half Europe’s electricity by 2050. Let’s hope there’s also some explanation of how we keep warm on those cold, windless winter days. Let’s hope, too, that the commissioners have not assumed the energy is free when the wind is blowing; offshore wind turbines need almost constant maintenance in a hostile environment where everything costs many times more than it does on land.

The commission’s conclusion reminds me of those projections, a century or so ago, predicting that London would be waist-deep in horse droppings by 1940 because of the growth of traffic. Those projections failed to see the impact of the motor car. The commission seems not to have noticed the arrival of shale gas and, potentially, shale oil. The technology has yet to reach the equivalent of the Model T Ford, yet US producers are already demanding permission to export their surplus.

The opponents of shale gas are gathering, spooking us with stories of gas coming out of water taps, and earthquakes from the technique. Yet as Alan Riley argues, if only Huhne would think of gas as part of the solution rather than part of the problem, we could face a future of dear rather than ruinous energy costs, without wasting hundreds of billions of pounds littering the landscape with part-time whirling dervishes.

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