And since this butts head on into something I’ve been thinking for a while, but not said, I’ll write it down. Don’t call me too bitter or cynical, please. And just for the moment, don’t demand references either – this is all stream of thought.
So: for a number of years now, starting at some unknown point – possibly around Cameroon’s ridiculous dancing-with-huskies moment, but most likely more nebulous and earlier – the British political scene went soppy green. Windmills sprouted, solar panels were subsidised, and commitments made – and even passed into law – to decarbonise the economy, with no apparent thought to the cost. I was baffled. Not only were people speaking some of the right words, sometimes even in the right order and at the right times, they were making what appeared to be hard commitments. But what they weren’t really doing was making it clear who was going to pay for it all, which I found worrying. That is, in the end, the acid test. Which we failed.
For when “hard” times came – and, having wandered today around the heart of Cambridge Christmas shopping, those times are really not very hard at all – suddenly even rather minor pledges to pay started to look expensive and the pols started backing off. The most obvious sign of this is the “green levy” or whatever its called, put on fuel bills to pay for the likes of rooftop solar panels. We got some solar panels but I was never really clear who was paying the bills – the money comes from the power companies (or will, when we get round to finishing off the forms) – but obviously these companies aren’t going to give away money for free. I had assumed it was govt (i.e., our tax) money being recycled, somehow. But no! it turns out to be a levy on everyone’s energy bills. And when bills are going up and the supposedly-reticent-and-stuff-upper-lip-but-actually-as-whiney-as-everyone-else Brits see increased fuel bills (presuambly at least some people do read their fuel bills) and ask “why are they going up” and the govt shamelessly tries to blame it on evil fuel companies, then naturally the companies fight back and throw mud in the water with “no! its your green levy wot did it” and suddenly govt support just melts away.
Get to the point
Anyway, back to my point: during the “long” boom up to, whenever, 2007, when we all felt rich and expansive, the public said they wanted greenery and the pols said “yeah!” But it was shallow. No-one thought much about the cost – well, economist types thought about costs, but economists are dull so who’s going to listen to them? Certainly no-one cool.
Public opinion wasn’t prepared for costs-vs-benefits, and suddenly costs matter again. The pols bow to the wind. In a way I’m pleased – the previous policy consensus smacked rather too much of fairyland. It was untested by any real opposition. The opposition now is facile and unthinking, if they’re dumb enough to think that attacking the IPCC is a good idea. But if the good guys can’t beat off idiots like that, how are they going to cope against competent opponents that are sane enough to look at the weak spots, rather than the strong points?