Will Boris Johnson Get Real On Energy?
A wave of energy realism is crashing over Europe, and Britain is set to be the next country to get soaked.
Recent weeks have seen Prime Minister Boris Johnson rediscover the virtues of his country’s domestic energy sources, and not a moment too soon.
Britain was suffering an energy-price emergency even before Vladimir Putin invaded Ukraine.
The regulatory cap on household electricity and natural-gas prices, which is adjusted twice a year for market conditions, is due to rise by 54% in early April.
This will add £693 ($915) to the average household’s annual bill even as inflation for everything else is surging.
Anyone who has to drive is paying much more as unleaded prices have risen about 35% and diesel prices some 42% over the past year.
The Federation of Small Businesses estimates that a typical small company with commercial premises in London has seen its electricity bill increase 145% and its natural-gas bill 258% over the past year.
Mr. Johnson and his fellow Tories in government like to remind voters that Britain imports relatively little of its fuel from Russia, unlike Germany and Italy.
But that hasn’t insulated the country from global price gyrations triggered by the Ukraine war and other countries’ sudden quest for alternate suppliers.
Instead, long-running climate policies—on which Mr. Johnson has doubled down—made matters considerably worse.
Successive prime ministers have tightened exploration in the North Sea, to the point of recently renaming the Oil and Gas Authority as the North Sea Transition Authority.
Britain could have started using hydraulic fracturing (fracking) technology to extract natural gas from the north of England years ago. Greens blocked drilling until Conservative politicians lost interest.
At least a few scales have belatedly fallen from eyes over the past month. Mr. Johnson now promises to press forward quickly with new licenses for North Sea exploration, despite the predictable green objections.
He wants to ramp up investment in nuclear power, which has been declining in the U.K. for decades.
Yet fracking appears to be off the table for now, despite calls from members of Mr. Johnson’s cabinet such as Foreign Secretary Liz Truss to exploit this obvious energy source.
The Prime Minister is also clinging to the net-zero greenhouse-gas emissions goal that got Britain into this jam.
His enthusiasm for solar and wind ignores how unreliable those supplies are on dark, still nights.
Political hostility to fossil fuels threatens to deter more investment in domestic production, as companies worry the mood might change as soon as the Ukraine crisis ends.
Net-zero is a wish, not an energy-security strategy. Other governments in Europe are grudgingly making their peace with this reality and responding accordingly.
The political danger for Mr. Johnson is that if he refuses to do likewise, voters eventually will search for a leader who will.
h/t Steve B.
Read more at WSJ
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