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Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Gas shortage: Who got us into this mess?

This article of mine appears in the First Post.

Obsessed with the free market, Thatcher created the problem – and Labour hasn’t helped. As the National Grid issues a fourth warning about gas supplies, Neil Clark pins the blame on Lady T.

Britain is within seven days of running out of gas if the cold spell continues and fresh supplies don't arrive soon. Gordon Brown has assured us that supplies are not running out, but the National Grid yesterday issued an unprecedented fourth gas balancing alert. It also issued an appeal for more gas to be pumped into the UK after promised supplies from Europe failed to materialise.

The Conservative opposition have, unsurprisingly, been quick to make political capital out of the stoppage of gas supplies to nearly 100 businesses which occurred last week and which are likely to be necessary again this week. But they really are the last ones to talk. For it was the Conservative government, elected in 1979, which is largely to blame for our current energy problems.

Up to 1979, Britain, under both Labour and the Conservatives, had pursued a sensible, balanced energy policy - one which looked to the future and sought to make the country as self-sufficient as possible.

But in 1979, free market dogma took over from commonsense. From now on, Britain's energy policy was that we didn't have an energy policy. Instead of forward planning, 'market forces' would decide everything.

The state-owned British National Oil Corporation was privatised. And the government opted for oil to be extracted as quickly as possible, in order to pay people not to work, instead of extracting more slowly and taking into account our 21st century needs. In the words of Alex Kemp, professor of petroleum economics at Aberdeen University, "Oil revenues were used as part of macro-economic management rather than energy policy, looking 30 years ahead."

The gas market was "liberalised" - with British Gas being sold off in 1986.

And, perhaps most damagingly of all, Britain's coal industry was all but destroyed - not because it made economic sense (it didn't), but because of the government's desire to crush Arthur Scargill's National Union of Mineworkers.

You can read the rest of the article here.


Gregor said...
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neil craig said...

I do9n't see how you can reasonably say our energy policy over the last 13 years has been not to have an energy policy.

Labour's energy policy was to give such massive subsidies to windmills that they make far more out of subsidy than they do selling electricity & to absolutely prevent any building of new nuclear plants.

Had the market been allowed to operate the nuclear plants would have been built (as Labour are very belatedly talking about allowing) & electricity prices instead of doubling to £1200 annually per househo9ld (& promised to rise further to £2000.. er sorry that was last year's promise now it is £5,000) would have halved to about £300 matching France.

You can legitimately blame the Tories for com plicity in not screaming blue murder (literally) about this over the last decade but you can't blame either Thatcher in 1979 or the free market.

Anonymous said...

I am a British born Serb. During NATO’s attack on Yugoslavia I joined other Serbs and our British friends in a non-stop vigil outside Downing Street.

One day I spotted a man I recognised but I couldn’t remember his name. His face was so well known to me that I was sure he was one of my dad’s old Serbian friends.

Then it hit me. As soon as his name rang through my thick head I felt remorseful, sad and very, very guilty.

Here was I standing in a London street asking passers-by to listen to me while I explained the suffering of the Serbian people and the terrible wrongs that were being inflicted on them by Britain and other NATO powers. Serbian “atrocity” stories were fictions invented by spin-doctors and spread through TV and the Press that was controlled by an international elite.

I know all this now, but I didn’t know it during the Miners’ Strike when Arthur Scargill told us that there were plans to shut down all of Britain’s deep mines and to sack the vast majority of miners. Mr Scargill was attacked by the same TV and Press that attacked the Serbs.

I was never a Scargill-hater, and I never said or did anything to harm the miners cause. But I certainly did nothing to help them and I believed much of what I was said about them.

But there he was the hated Arthur Scargill standing shoulder-to-shoulder with the hated Serbs. It is a memory I will never forget. It has changed me for the better.

For what it is worth, I apologise to the miners and to Mr Scargill for not coming to their aid. If nothing else I could have stood by their side.

This country will rue the day it lost its coal mines and miners.

Neil Clark said...

many thanks, Gregor.
i hope to write something about Rod Liddle soon.
i fully agree with you about 'kindergarten leftism' which sadly infects quite a bit of the british left these days.

anonymous: yes, the much maligned Arthur Scargill was right on the NATO bombing of Yugoslavia in 99 in the same way he was right about the Iraq war and right about the mines in the 1980s. And of course, it was precisely because he could see through the neoliberal/neocon agenda so clearly, and because knew what they had in store for us, that he was demonised. Destroying the NUM was an extremely important part of the plan.

Anonymous said...

Back to Rod Liddle. The two Facebook groups in his favour had a mere 158 adherents a few moments ago, the one against 3,247 supporters.

Direct democracy in action!

Anonymous said...

Just in case you missed it, this from Rod Liddle: "We may have to bomb Iran", Sunday Times, April 30, 2006

Do you share the positive opinion of David Lindsay?

Anonymous said...

Rod again:

"It is hard to know whether we should laugh at [George] Galloway or hang him."

Much more here:

Anonymous said...

Another piece of Rod:

"George Galloway, with whom I was privileged to ‘debate’ the issue (there is no debate, of course), asserted that the BBC had shown long-standing and extreme pro-Israeli bias. Is it even remotely possible to believe such a thing without being quite mad? I also failed to debate the issue with a magnificently sententious and totalitarian Tony Benn (he wouldn’t debate with a hapless Zionist twat like me), who resorted to telling the interviewer that he made him puke, simply for asking a few salient questions."

Gregor said...
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