The net-zero carbon agenda — the Government’s quixotic and grandiose attempt to take control of global climate change — never ceases to cause mundane but exasperating problems for the man and woman in the street.
Or, to be more specific, on the road.
As part of its plan to get us to use bicycles (like the Chinese when they were too poor to afford a car), changes in the Highway Code have been introduced that encourage cyclists to use the centre of the road — even where there are existing cycle lanes — when there is ‘slow-moving traffic’.
The consequence is obvious. On Saturday (the day the changes came into force), Steve Bulley, the vice president of the Dorchester Chamber for Business, found himself — along with who knows how many other drivers — stuck for eight miles behind a group of cyclists.
Steve Bulley, the vice president of the Dorchester Chamber of Business, vented his fury at a group of cyclists who he says refused to let cars pass for eight miles
We know this because he posted to social media a photo of them, taken while he was stationary at a set of traffic lights. Underneath the image was his description: ‘The day cyclists took over the road. This lot refused to let us pass for eight miles; looking back and laughing.’
There will be countless more incidents like this. Obviously not all cyclists will gloat about their newly sanctioned supremacy, as that lot did.
But such incidents show the perverseness of this aspect of the ‘green agenda’: traffic jams not only mean that more fuel is used for the journey, but the fumes released by idling cars are hardly healthy for any pedestrians in the vicinity.
Boris Johnson, however, is not just a keen cyclist himself (or was before becoming Prime Minister, when his favoured mode of transport was ruled out on security grounds) but, partly under the influence of his absolutely eco-fabulous wife Carrie, has become obsessed with the ‘green agenda’.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson rides a bike along the towpath of the Stourbridge canal in the West Midlands, in May 2021
When his close ally in the Cabinet, Lord (David) Frost, resigned last month, the former chief Brexit negotiator gave as one of his reasons ‘the staggering cost’ of the Government’s net-zero mission.
Frost later endorsed a newspaper column which had argued that Johnson should ‘reset’ his Prime Ministership by ensuring an ‘immediate exit’ from Downing Street of advisers described as ‘green fanatics’.
It is hard to see the PM showing Carrie — mother of his two latest children — the door. And his third wife can’t be sacked from an advisory job, which, officially at least, she doesn’t have.
But the net-zero agenda (or as the Prime Minister puts it, with characteristically optimistic hyperbole, the ‘Green Industrial Revolution’) is creating consequences much more dire than being held up for miles by cyclists newly accorded the status of kings of the road.
When Lord (David) Frost, pictured, resigned last month, the former chief Brexit negotiator gave as one of his reasons ‘the staggering cost’ of the Government’s net-zero mission
Most obviously, we are seeing it in the cost-of-living crisis, when our electricity bills are subject to an increment of about 25 per cent, funding what are called ‘environmental and social costs’.
This is more properly described as a green tax, paying for such bizarre ‘renewable energy’ boondoggles as the conversion of the giant Drax power station to the burning of wood chips.
These are imported from as far afield as Brazil and Louisiana, and — in order to make this viable — Drax has received billions of pounds in subsidies (from you and me, via our electricity bills).
Meanwhile, the Government has been doing its best to block or frustrate non-‘renewable’ energy production projects that would not only be inherently profitable, requiring no subsidy from the taxpayer, but where the resources lie securely in this country.
It is hard to see the PM showing Carrie (pictured) — mother of his two latest children — the door
Thus, Shell, despairing at the hostile political environment, has abandoned its plans to develop the Cambo oil field, one of the last great untapped reservoirs under the North Sea.
And by introducing a rule that onshore gas exploration by the method known as fracking should be put in abeyance if it causes an earth tremor of more than 0.5 on the Richter scale, the development of potentially vast amounts of gas (identified by the British Geological Survey) has been effectively cancelled by government decree.
The same geological formations have been developed in the U.S. to such an effect that gas prices there are about a third of those in the European market — which means that U.S. industry has a significantly lower cost base than ours.
As a letter signed by 49 geo-scientists pointed out, the 0.5 tremor limit was ‘not just so low as to threaten the potential of a shale gas industry in the UK’, it is ‘far below the levels set for comparable industries in the UK, such as quarrying’.
Or, as the then shale gas commissioner, Natasha Engel, said when resigning in despair: ‘A perfectly viable industry is being wasted because of a government policy driven by environmental lobbying rather than science and a desire to see UK industry flourish.’
Former shale gas commissioner, Natasha Engel, said when resigning in despair: ‘A perfectly viable industry is being wasted because of a government policy driven by environmental lobbying rather than science and a desire to see UK industry flourish’
The one person most delighted by this perverse policy? Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin, whose greatest weapon is Russia’s increasing grip, via its vast gas reserves, on European energy supply.
This is why the Kremlin’s English-language media network, RT, had been engaging in poisonous scaremongering about the allegedly fatal consequences of UK shale gas production.
Max Keiser, of RT’s Kaiser Report, claimed that ‘frackers are the moral equivalent of paedophiles’ because fracking ‘is giving British children cancer’.
As the then secretary general of Nato, Anders Fogh Rasmussen, observed in 2014: ‘Russia engaged actively with environmental organisations working against shale gas, to maintain European dependence on imported Russian gas.’
Russia, of course, has no intention of joining the rush to ‘net-zero’. And neither do the world’s two largest economies, the U.S. and China.
Given that the UK is responsible for barely one per cent of global CO2 emissions, this puts into perspective the hubristic claims of ‘global climate leadership’ on the part of the Johnson administration.
As if to make this even more painfully clear, last week the Chinese President, Xi Jinping, alarmed by the domestic political consequences of rocketing energy prices, declared that Beijing’s ‘climate policies’ must not interfere with ‘normal daily lives’, adding that ‘we must ensure energy security [and] industrial supply chain security’.
Perhaps more surprisingly (at least to the naïve), it was revealed last week that President Joe Biden had issued more oil and gas drilling permits in his first year of office than had Donald ‘Drill Baby, Drill’ Trump in his own inaugural year as President.
Despite its claims to be committed to the ‘battle against climate change’, the Biden administration has so far approved more than 3,500 permits for oil and gas drilling on public land, compared with fewer than 2,700 permits granted by the Trump administration in its first 12 months.
Vladimir Putin’s greatest weapon is Russia’s increasing grip, via its vast gas reserves, on European energy supply
Most absurdly of all (from a British perspective), it would have been in precisely those parts of the country which Johnson has pledged to ‘level up’ where shale gas projects would have been sited.
Meanwhile, it is the same areas — given their greater dependence on manufacturing — that will be hardest-hit by the Government’s high-cost ‘clean’ energy programme.
Last year, the think-tank Forward published a report, signed by two former ministers (one Labour, one Tory), pointing out that, though they were not against the overall plan, the result of this government policy would be that ‘the industrial and manufacturing heartlands in the Midlands and the North are far more likely to experience economic disruption during the net-zero transition than the South-East and London.’
They added: ‘Many of these places were worst-hit from the deindustrialisation of the 1980s and the 1990s, [which] reinforces the problem.’
In other words, the net-zero policy runs exactly counter to the so-called ‘levelling up’ agenda.
And this Pushmi-Pullyu approach (with apologies to the late Hugh Lofting, inventor of the fictional creature with heads at each end of its body) has the potential to tear the Government — and the country — apart. It will not be a pretty sight.