By Gabriel Devine
Prime minister Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson has announced his plan to halt the sale of all new petrol and diesel cars as of 2030. This doesn’t include hybrids and second hand cars and has been done to rebrand the PM as more of a “hug-a-hoodie”, one nation, Cameroonian style of tory to sweep back the votes gained by the lib dems in the last election. This parliamentary facelift comes just days after Dominic Cummings, his former chief advisor, resigned over the dismissal of Lee Cain, another member of the revolving door between Whitehall and Fleetstreet. (I personally think this decision has more to do with wanting to be out of the blast radius when the economic impact of covid combined with the impact of leaving the EU in January synthesises into a basket case of an economy Boris will have to wrestle with for the rest of his tenure.) With Cummings gone, Alegra Stratton and others representing the more liberal aspect of the tory party have begun the process of sanitising the PMs image as Keir Starmer has been rising in the Westminster polling. As worrying as it is to have a PM that can jump 5 points left on the political spectrum depending on who is whispering in his ear is, what I would rather talk today about this “Green” policy and why it fails everyone.
The development of carbon neutral fuels in the past 20 years has been a rapid arms race with bio-diesel and other “superfuels” like dimethyl ether being researched round the clock to develop cost effective ways to decouple us from our terminal addiction to oil, gas and coal. While renewable energies like solar wind and hydro all have their place and are becoming more commercially viable year over year. ( If you disagree, why is the anti-democractic CCP the number 1 installer of fourth generation solar devices for the past few years? Or is the murderous regime responsible for modern day concentration camps in Xinjiang just “virtue signalling”)
However as someone who has done a lot of work and research in renewables (I have designed from scratch a small scale wind turbine and am currently about to finish my Mechanical Engineering bachelors specialising in renewable technologies and carbon capture) this idea of more government intervention in people's lives seems designed to polarise people against his so called “green industrial revolution” and actively promote a more carbon dependent society. (side note: I find it hilarious that the “radical socialists” of the US democratic party like Bernie Sanders and AOC are having their ideas pinched by the hyper liberal tory party but that's besides the point.) The GOP attacks on the green new deal never went after the carbon taxes or the public works programs they went after “hamburgers” and “plane journeys”. Things that are only barely part of green new deal because they know that the majority of people (even in america where the oil lobby has pushed hard against public awareness of climate change) understand the threat climate change is causing and would gladly see restrictions placed on corporations that break the rules and over pollute, so the GOP has to go after the civil liberty angle to maintain this veneer of populism that's slowly peeling away to reveal the same Neo-Con party they always have been.
This change in tack could also be a response to the Biden victory across the pond to more closely align the US and the UK in terms of our climate response policies. Biden has announced an immediate re-entering of the Paris climate accords as president and has shown interest in being proactive in the fight against climate change. Again the idea that the PM of our country can be swayed by votes of some 1000 people in Maricopa County, Arizona is another chilling one but again those who haven't come to terms with the UK’s status as a US client state probably never will at this point.
Returning to Biofuels, advancements in the development of renewable, carbon neutral sources of hydrocarbon fuels is and has been increasing rapidly to the point where we expect the technology to be fully comercial within the next ten to twenty years. Decoupling our economy from foregin fossil fuels is beneficial in many ways, such as providing us energy security and reducing the power of despotic oil states have in influencing our foregin policy. I just think that it is short sighted to see no future in which we can maintain our lucrative energy production and remain carbon neutral. The electric car argument too is one that seems a pitfall for may would be environmentalists. Electric cars are not a magic bullet to solve all logistical sources of carbon emissions. Electric cars are only non-polluting if the electricity they are running off isn't made through the burning of fossil fuels otherwise you are just shifting the point of emission from the exhaust pipe to the powerstation smokestacks. Ideally if we could decarbonise the national grid that would make the electric cars as green as the idealist would have us believe but to simply bet the farm on this projection that in ten years time electric cars being greener will offset the growing population and our hopefully increasing energy demand seems like wishful thinking to me.
The one thing i don't see in this 10 point plan of the PM’s is any penalising taxes on our most polluting industries. 71% of global carbon emissions are provided by only the 100 most polluting companies on the planet. We cannot begin to address the rising global CO2 emissions if we dont first tackle these multinational conglomerates who for too long have had the whip hand over tax law and pollution legislation in this country and around the world. Any plan to tactile global warming that doesn't include some power to reign in some of the multinationals that are driving this problem is dead on arrival in terms of efficacy. I am very glad to see some Keynesian investment in these long term investments that may not be very valuable on the open market given their large investment and a long time before a return on that investment. I just wish we had seen this coupled with additional taxes to even pay these new initiatives (I am not some kind of deficit hawk, I think deficit spending is good actually and investments in maintaining employment is better than minimising inflation). I also think the investment in nuclear energy is great, my only gripe is that it doesn't go far enough. I have always praised France for fully committing to nuclear energy in the later half of the 20th century. I would imagine that even the french population was as spooked by chernolbyl and three mile island as the rest of the western world but their ability to soldier on ahead anyway is commendable. I think a real focus on a nuclear future for britain would be a great idea because in the future when africa comes online, the EU may want to sell their energy grid to african nations needing energy to develop. If we were positioned as a net energy exporter we could make tonnes of money providing energy for these nations.
Overall I must admit I am pleased by the announcement of this 10 point plan. My biggest bugbear is something I mentioned earlier. The framing and public perception of these initiatives is crucial to maintaining them under successive governments. Giving the press this car shaped stick to beat you with damages the image of the announcement as a whole. We will see how long this new Boris lasts by how the polls look over the coming weeks, If this announcement turns off those carbon loving psychos in the tory party then maybe he will have to U turn on many of these policies. Honestly though I don't see Labour drawing much from the tories over the coming weeks. It would appear that the civil war brewing in that party over the last decade has finally reached a fever pitch over the suspension and subsequent readmission of the former labour leader over his crudely worded reaction to the EHRC report that neither condemned him nor exonerated him. The Lib Dems seem like the ones most at risk with this new liberal facelift. Not aided by the fact I’m pretty sure no one reading this right now can name the current leader of the Lib Dems without looking it up (It's Ed Davey by the way). I could see whatever new wehrmacht of xenophobia Farage spins up in the coming months, as a replacement for the brexit party, making hay over this new direction for the PM. Of course UKIP is technically still around but they almost seem as pointless as the Lib Dems after their victory in the 2016 referendum (hopefully a similar fate befalls the SNP after independence).
Only time will tell if this policy of sliding to the centre will grab the voters he needs to secure another victory in 2024 but as it stands I think this is a good thing for the country even if I do see it as a pulled punch slightly in the fight against climate change.