No, the UK’s energy woes have not really been caused by net zero

“This has been a fundamental feature of the debate in Australia from day one – misappropriation of cause and effect,” Falinski says.

Drivers queue for fuel at a petrol station in London on Tuesday. Long lines of vehicles have formed at many gas stations around Britain since Friday, causing spillover traffic jams on busy roads.Credit:AP


“The mistake made in the past is that those kinds of claims have been allowed to go on unchecked. I think it’s important now that people actually stand up and say, ‘look, there is no relationship between this and the thing you’re arguing against’.”

The transport crisis will probably ease over the coming weeks but the more serious problem revolves around skyrocketing natural gas prices. Unlike Australia, where gas represents a fraction of the overall energy mix, in Britain it makes up nearly 40 per cent. About 85 per cent of homes use gas central heating.

Industry group Oil and Gas UK says wholesale prices have surged 250 per cent since January and a whopping 70 per cent since August alone.

But market forces – not government climate policy – are chiefly to blame. Surging global demand driven by the post-lockdown recovery, lower supply from Russia, fierce bidding for liquefied natural gas by Asia, and Europe’s cold 2020-21 winter has put real pressure on reserves and supply. A fire affecting a key undersea cable used to import electricity from France hasn’t made things any easier.

The UK hasn’t helped itself by storing much less gas than other nations in Europe. However Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng, who has responsibility for energy policy, says this is a “red herring”.

Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng is in charge of fixing the gas shortage.

Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng is in charge of fixing the gas shortage.Credit:AP

“There’s no way that any storage in the world will mitigate a quadrupling of the gas price in four months, as we’ve seen,” he told MPs. “The answer to this is getting more diverse sources of supply, more diverse sources of electricity, through non-carbon sources.”

In another complication, there has been a lack of wind to turn thousands of turbines in the North Sea, right when the gas shortage meant renewables were really needed. This is not ideal, but far from the primary cause of the price rises causing so much grief for voters.

That honour rests with the increasing difficulty of importing scarce supplies. And if that doesn’t make the case for a carefully managed increase in domestic renewable capacity and storage – and not a decrease as Canavan and others like to argue – what will?

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