Archive

Posts Tagged ‘Gas’

A new ‘nationalisation’ of essential Public Services is necessary to help head off the Cost-of-Living Crisis. But Public Sector reform, removal of union influence and practical reality is essential too

October 14, 2021 Leave a comment

Any service necessary for each every one of us to function in our daily activities and continue to be an active member of society should be shielded from the constraints and bias of private interests and maintained under impartial public or community control.

Yet this is not where we are in the UK today. The problems that having so many public facing services under the direct control or heavy influence of private, profit-making interests is now impacting our lives like never before.

First things first. My reason for writing about ‘Nationalisation’ today is of course related to the energy crisis being caused by escalating prices of natural gas supplies which are being brought in from Europe and beyond.

It is important to be clear here that the price of these supplies before they reach the UK wouldn’t matter whoever is in control of utility companies across the UK.

But the fact that we are in the situation that we now are says more about the way that Government has dealt with the energy question for a long time, and how successive governments have failed us strategically over and over again.

This is where I will refocus onto the rather pressing question of who controls public energy provision in the UK and therefore the ongoing cost.

The pathway to today’s mess

Privatisation was probably the most damaging legacy of the Thatcher years. Not because the many Public Companies that were sold off didn’t need to be run better or placed in more capable hands as they most certainly did.

Privatisation was inherently damaging because that ‘Conservative’ Government failed to recognise that any shareholder-led business will always put the value of their business and what they earn from it before anything else. When handed a virtual monopoly, the owners of private ‘industries’ will ultimately dictate the prices of everything so that their margins rise and are maintained first.

Yes, a public sell-off sold to us all under the premise that we could all become owners of the services that worked for us sounded like a great plan. And it might have been, if all those shares that started off in small tranches sat in the back pockets of welders, builders and secretaries hadn’t been sold off when the promise of a quick return quickly passed them all into large corporate and deep-pocketed hands.

On the face of it, it seems extraordinary that the so-called Party of Business could not have foreseen that with the wider changes that they were facilitating and contributing at the time, this is how things would soon be.

But as we are learning to our continuing and significant cost, foresight and thought for the impact of decisions and what will then happen when the chain of subsequent decisions are six or seven times

removed are in short supply when our current crop of politicians are involved.

The reality today is that the energy sector doesn’t exist to provide us all with light, heat, electricity with the purpose of serving the public in the best ways that it can.

The UK energy sector today exists to provide dividends and profit to shareholders with a level of power and influence that our politicians gave it, which guarantees that it can.

The fact that private interests can command profit levels which leave parents, families and people both old and young who live on their own, rationing their power and heat, is an absolute travesty.

With all the related personal harms that follow, such as anxiety, social issues, food poverty (where heat and power is prioritised), it is incredible that any government – Conservative, Labour or anything else – wouldn’t see and prioritise addressing this matter as a No.1 cause.

Re-Nationalisation & Cultural Reform of the Public Sector

But here we are.

We have to consider the other questions around returning to public ownership and the provision of energy in the UK today and tomorrow first.

The Labour Party is talking about Nationalisation again. And in terms of the principle of returning public services to public or community-focused ownership, I would certainly have to agree.

However, what would be as bad, if not worse than what we have and what people are experiencing today, would be for all of these companies, industries and sectors just to be returned to a situation where civil servants and union barons have control.

With the public sector in desperate need from the sclerotic, protectionist environment and culture that it now is, the last thing the UK public would need is for energy to be under the control of people who hide behind their job titles to excuse their ineptitude by being ‘public servants’. It is an entire sector living in fear of wokeism and everything that could lose them their comfortable salaries and pensions.

As such you can be certain that these re-nationalised services handed back to the Public Sector as it is would immediately capitulate to union control.

Let’s be quite fair about Unions. There was a time when they provided a great service to the low paid and to mistreated employees. The Union Movement certainly precipitated and even facilitated great and positive change.

But that was a Century ago, and with even a fraction of the rules and regulations around employment that now exist, Unions have long since become an archaic device that does nothing more than further the self interest of a few by pushing damaging industrial action. And just like with the banks and big company fat cats, it is the general public that ends up paying the inevitable price.

So whatever model of Nationalisation that were undertaken, it would be essential that public sector reform and the removal of union influence be right at the top of the policy change list, and that is where some of the biggest political controversies lie. Or at least they do at the current time.

The model would most certainly not work if it was anything near to being like the publicly owned model of service companies from the 1970’s and before. But there are ways that a good operational model that priorities service to the public first can be achieved and run on very commercial lines. Just as long as the governance and the people who are able to influence those systems of government are the right people with the right values to do that job.

Energy Provision must be practical today with idealism helping us do things better for tomorrow

Going around in what feels like a bit of a circle, we now come back to the issue at hand today.

Beyond the immediacy of the impending ‘energy crisis’ itself, the issue is UK energy self-sufficiency; How we maintain that self-sufficiency and how we meet the fluctuations of domestic and business demands night and day, seven days a week and 365 days of the year.

Right now, the UK isn’t achieving this. That is why small energy companies are going bust as they cannot supply energy to customers at the prices they have committed themselves to.

It’s why the monopolistic members of this exclusive utility club are piling pressure on Ofgem and the Government to be unleashed from the restraints of price caps that will allow them to charge whatever it costs them to buy wholesale energy – whilst maintaining or continuing to grow profits and dividend payments that will just extend the unnecessary and avoidable pain that is steadily affecting the lives of us all.

Whilst we have to wake up to the risk to us all that climate change has created, and accept that the ideas, habits and thinking behind them now have to change, we cannot allow impractical idealism rule over the process if we want to achieve aimed for result, without causing a lot more harm and pain.

Green Energy is expensive to the public, because it isn’t as efficient, reliable and doesn’t offer providers the same kind of returns as traditional sources of energy with technology and management in its current form.

Making Public Policy commitments and setting timelines to phase out technology that works now, is proven and is reliable on the basis of alternatives that are unproven, not evolved to a workable degree or haven’t even been developed yet is government and political foolishness in the extreme.

It is incredible that power stations have already been decommissioned that could have now still been in use. And before anyone one starts to argue about the need to stop using fossil fuels for this purpose – which most will readily agree must happen as soon as we can provide alternatives consistently that make sense to do so – please take a good look at what China and other Countries with significantly higher carbon footprints are doing right now.

One of those alternatives, at least for a realistic and continuing period of time, has to be a greater reliance on our own UK Nuclear Power production and the development of smaller reactors that may be easier to commission and put into service, making energy production localised as quickly as possible once more.

We are not safe from foreign or malign interest of any kind for as long as these services that are essential to our lives remain out of public hands.

It should now be the priority of government run by whoever in power it might be, to return the UK to full self sufficiency of energy production in whatever form necessary to achieve this in the shortest time.

Once we our energy self-sufficient and only when we are, the priority must then be to promote the development of the greenest alternatives possible, ensuring that they are always available, are reliable and that they make being green a voluntary and easy choice, rather than one which is imposed by law or default.

Energy & Utility Companies should never have been put in private hands. If they now demand public money to keep the greed train afloat, it’s time to hand them back

September 20, 2021 Leave a comment

Over the coming days, weeks, months and possibly years too, the impact of a twisted and flawed political system being prevalent in this country – not just for the past eighteen months, or even eighteen years, but for much longer than that – is going to become ever more apparent as all the ridiculous and self-serving decisions that generations of politicians from all sides have taken finally and potentially catastrophically unwind before our eyes.

Decisions on Public Policy aren’t and haven’t been made for any of the reasons that they should be. Decisions have been based on the irresponsible and impractical view of what could be rather than having any relationship with what is and today, we face the horrific situation where people who have already been squeezed for years by a system that is stacked in the favour of perpetuating greed may be on the verge of being left without even the basic necessities which are essential to everyday life. All because the people who have been masquerading as public representatives aren’t capable of letting priorities like considering the long-term consequences of what they do for others get in the way of what serves them and the Political Parties they represent best.

The last thing that families on very tight incomes across the UK will be wanting to see on the news channels on a Monday morning are stories that suggest that prices of electricity and gas are about to escalate so dramatically, that they really could go out sight.

The last thing that we all need is the prospect of our gutless politicians looking to take the easy way out of what might be about to become a very serious energy crisis by using yet more created public money bailing out what are private and profit-hungry companies that should never have been able to dictate the cost of services for public consumption that everyone needs, and which are essential to life.

But we are where we are. And we are currently stuck with the same politicians, with the same ideas and the same lack of vision that continually hurts us, being in charge of dealing with this crisis too.

The obsession with control and the endless focus on trying to deal with the ‘what ifs’ that this political culture has is causing us endless problems.

The question over energy companies today is just one of many that are about to come to light where we will need leadership with the vision and commitment to where solutions need to take us, that steps away from the flawed idea that using money for everything can forever prevent there being any pain to the public – and therefore never any electoral pain to the politicians who are involved.

The BIG way to deal with all the problems that are now coming to the surface will be to use the opportunities that these problems create, to review everything on the table, fix the problems and then rebalance the whole system so that it serves everyone and the public interest in the best way possible – the way that is fundamentally right.

The siren call to our shameful Government will be the what if of what happens if power and heat is lost this winter, and many people then go without. That will probably be all it will take for Johnson and Co to get the cheque book out.

The energy companies will tell the Government that without a cash injection, they are likely to go bust. But these are the same companies that have been making record profits when energy prices have been low. But the reality is that just because they collectively have a monopoly and therefore a strangle hold on what is actually public service provision, it doesn’t therefore follow that they are entitled to always make a profit – even when the weather for them is bad, and the sun really will not shine.

Services that exist for the public good, which provide those things essential to the provision of the fundamentals of what it takes to live happily, healthily and safely with the basic essentials of life, should never be placed in private, profit-making hands. Man can only have one master and when any company is privately owned, it is clear that profit – not public service – is the one and only overriding choice – no matter what stories they tell.

Perhaps the greatest threat to finding solutions to widespread social and economic problems is the obsession that politicians and commentators have with political ideologies and ridiculous arguments against taking certain courses of action, simply because of who made the suggestion and whether it has electoral implications.

All they should be doing is asking the simple question is it right and will it do all that it is supposed to do.

If the energy companies want to go bust, the Government must let them. Then they must take those companies and the public services that they provide back into public hands.

This is not a matter of left vs right or socialist vs capitalist politics. It’s a question of doing what’s fundamentally right.

We must use the very bad situation that we are all about to experience to rebalance a system that will otherwise continue to be unjust, hindering normal people when it should only ever exist to help them. What we have today is completely mad.

%d bloggers like this: