Are you ready for WW2-style energy rationing?

Bring your own gas mask

Firstly, there's double counting. The EU's ETS scheme aspires to do same thing. It already covers half of the UK's fossil fuel energy consumption, and domestic electricity use and aviation will soon be added to ETS.

Which means UK citizens will be paying for their energy using three currencies - a "real" one (sterling) and two "virtual" ones, one operated by the EU (ETS), the other by the state (PCA). It's a bureaucrat's paradise - but this doesn't dampen the Committee's enthusiasm. The more schemes, the merrier - lest anyone be left in the dark, unlit by the bright light of "awareness". As the committee puts it, -

"The fact that there would be double counting in some parts of the carbon chain is not in dispute". However: "Double counting would not reduce the effectiveness of personal carbon trading or detract from the other advantages of the whole concept."

Rationing, it seems, is invincible.

Secondly, and this is ducked completely, a market requires willing buyers and sellers. But if further emission rights are not available, as the rationers insist, then the market only has sellers. So, who's the buyer? Will the state step in and reward eco-virtue? If so, it can do so much more cheaply by issuing rebates rather than it can by creating a spurious market, with the billions of pounds of administrative expenses that go with maintaining the fiction.

Then there's public transport. Should individuals be penalized for long commutes, when the energy emissions are not significant (and the bus or train would run anyway)? Perhaps, the MPs say, but their focus is on marketing rather than justifying the proposal.

"It is important that the public are not faced with a mixed signal," they say.

"Although the surrender of allowances for public transport would be minimal in comparison to the purchase of road fuels, a public transport system that was entirely exempt from personal carbon allowances would provide a far clearer incentive for individuals to leave their cars at home."

And most importantly, the rationing evangelists admit, is that the public doesn't want it.

The past few weeks have seen a deep backlash against "green" taxes, with this week's fuel protest the most visible manifestation.

"A period of significant recession would dampen enthusiasm for most environmental measures, and that personal carbon trading would not be exempt from this trend," they concede.

However prettily the MPs would like to dress up rationing, it's fundamentally a form of social coercion designed to make people less comfortable than they were before. Wartime rationing needs a war-sized scare, and with the climate stubbornly refusing to conform to the computer models (which predict catastrophe) that looks like an impossible prospect. ®

Related link

Environment Audit Committee on Rationing

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