• Stephen Balogh

Electric unintended consequences

Whilst much is uncertain about the energy outlook as winter approaches, one thing will be for sure: the person who invents a device to convert obfuscation into energy will be quids in – or should that be roubles in?

With depressing predictability, the UK and other countries have through a combination of naivety and wilfulness allowed themselves to be taken hostage by geopolitical gas interests. Especially with COP26 in the UK’s back yard (sorry, not meaning to refer to Glasgow in this way), you can imagine how many sinews will stretched to ensure that, no, definitely not, perish the thought, there is no relationship whatever between our race for green energy, the race away from particularly dirty fossil fuels, the use of gas but without storage contingency, and that barrel over there that we have obligingly laid ourselves over.

But just watch the problems build up, let alone the bleak prospects for too many already in fuel poverty even before higher bills start piling in. Jim Radcliffe of INEOS from the industrial quarter is already warning of industry power shut-offs, and I wouldn’t be surprised if the government is brushing off its public information films from the 1970s such as this one https://www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/films/1964to1979/filmpage_switch.htm. Ah, the good old days.

Another embarrassing symptom of the unintended consequences of this great march forward: electric freight trains being taken out of service in favour of diesels, because the variable cost tariff from the overhead power lines has been hiked up (see https://www.railfreight.com/railfreight/2021/10/13/freightliner-takes-down-electric-locs-due-to-high-electricity-prices/?gdpr=accept). Just as railfreight was poised to take market share in the midst of HGV driver shortages and help the country out a little.

Great advert for the COP26 hosts, indeed. And naming an electric locomotive “Over the Rainbow” suddenly looks like an inadvertent act of marketing genius.

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