Home » Badger and the Road to Utopia
Badger Comment

Badger and the Road to Utopia


Are you prepared to pay more for things if others are paid more to ensure you can get what you want or need?

When it comes to services you consume, if the cost of providing those services increases, are you prepared to pay more towards the costs of having them?

Whether you say yes or no to the above proposition, you have little or no choice.

When it comes to gas supply, the UK – remember North Sea Gas, anyone? – is in a truly dreadful state.

You can store gas.

France and Germany, for example, keep several months’ supply of gas in reservoirs to be used in times of shortage or constricted supply.

The UK had a similar arrangement but closed it in 2017. We have no more than three days’ storage capacity for a vital resource.

Closing the storage facility was supposed to save £750m over ten years.

It hasn’t.

Short-term penny-pinching led to long-term structural problems in the UK’s gas supply.

Remember David Cameron and George Osborne, anyone?

Those were the halcyon days of speculation that fracking would be a cure-all for the UK’s gas supplies, and cheap electricity from new and renewable sources would fill the market gap.Let’s deal with the last of those first.

25p in every pound of your domestic fuel bills is already accounted for by a subsidy directed towards renewable energy.

After years of paying a ‘green levy’, storing power generated by renewables is still years away. It has to be used when generated; anything unused is lost.

When the supply of electricity from renewables runs short – for example, if there is not enough wind and not enough sunlight, the UK has to fall back either on fossil fuel-driven power generation (gas-fired) or nuclear power.

Worse than that, electricity supplied via some renewables needs – for want of a plainer word – ‘tuning’ before being introduced to the Grid.

In August 2019, large parts of the South-West of England, South-East Wales and pockets of southern England were blacked out. To compensate for high demand on the National Grid, power generated by renewables was introduced ‘untuned’.

The Grid shut down, creating chaos for a few hours.

The UK’s best option is probably hydropower. However, that’s fearfully expensive to produce in enough volume to provide for domestic demand, and the collateral damage to sensitive marine environments also counts against it.

On that topic, let’s talk about the Swansea Bay Tidal Lagoon. The hare-brained subsidy magnet would have wreaked environmental devastation, been prohibitively expensive to build, and relied on continuing taxpayer support to survive.

If you have a spare hour or two to waste and want a giggle, read the transcript of its boss’s 2018 evidence to the Welsh Select Committee.

As an example of “Yeah but, no but”, it’s hard to beat.

Those boosting large-scale green energy never mention the end-cost and the carbon debt built up during construction and use.

The massive Drax plant in Yorkshire burns wood pellets to generate electricity; forests cannot be replaced quickly enough to offset the carbon dioxide produced as a side product.

And that ignores the issue of domestic gas consumption.

What on earth will replace gas as the UK’s fuel of choice?

And who will pay for the cost of replacing the existing technology and pipelines?

Using biomass to produce gas is a filthy process, and it creates a carbon debt that may or may not eventually be repaid.

That biomass is wood. The UK’s timber industry doesn’t produce enough waste lumber by-products to fuel biomass ‘gasification’, and that means pelleted wood has to be imported.

Burning rubbish is even worse and releases a range of toxins into the atmosphere unless costly modifications are made to the gasification process.

Tackling climate change, which means reducing its worst effects, boils down to money.

Integrating renewably generated electricity comes with a hefty price tag, and that’s setting aside the storage problems associated with it.

The Children of the Moon can rely on their trust funds to subsidise earth closets, burning turds for warmth, and eating organically-grown aubergine and ancient grains in their £300,000 sustainable roundhouses in the hills and vales.

That middle-class pretence at ‘greening’ – is not much more than posh boys and girls playing at saving the planet one foraged mushroom at a time.

Badger’s chum Tess Delaney wrote a book about her experiences of living off-grid. It should be compulsory reading for anyone with plans to live sustainably in a rural idyll without having a massive wodge of dosh first.

Investment in infrastructure costs and those costs are, inevitably, passed on to consumers.

That’s us.

That is how the market works, whether floating freely or controlled by the central government.

The problem of reducing climate change’s worst effects needs a realistic appreciation of where we are now with domestic power and fuel supply.

Small scale electricity projects might work for rural communities and small towns, and they can be built without significant disruption or incurring a considerable carbon debt.

However, large scale projects to service the demands of the UK’s major conurbations are for the birds.

Cost, technical problems, reliability of supply, and the carbon debt of construction make them prohibitively expensive both in monetary and environmental terms.

The least wrong approach for urban areas might be to stick with what we have and try and reduce its impact by secondary means. For example, by replacing decaying or end-of-life high-density housing stock with lower density, more energy-efficient homes and making existing houses more energy-efficient.

It’s not the grand epoch-defining measure some would like to see, and even less is it the total reinvention of society wished for by self-righteous snobs with their heads in the clouds who’ve read far too many Guardian columns.

To make tackling climate change work needs money and public support. You can’t drag the majority kicking and screaming where it doesn’t want to go.

On the road to utopia, sometimes you have to settle for the B-road to reality.