Whilst other nations acted in their citizens best interests to bring down energy prices this summer (for example France at 4% seven months ago), we had to watch a long and protracted Conservative Party leadership race, while Boris Johnson flew around in RAF jets for a bit of fun, funded by the public purse. Many were dismayed, though not surprised, when instead of applying a windfall tax on excess profits by energy companies Liz Truss chose, as one of her first acts as prime minister, to bail out our electricity companies to the tune of £150bn.
Energy companies are estimated to be making excess profits of £170bn, so the obvious action would have been windfall tax on these profits to help reduce energy bills instead of indebting our children for the rest of their lives.
Truss’s connections to the energy companies
Many were quick to point out that not only did Truss used to work for Shell, but also her largest donation of £100,000 during this leadership battle was made by the wife of former BP executive James Hay. As families struggle with energy bills, one can’t help but think that Truss’s judgement may have been a little clouded when it came to deciding where to direct her bail out funds.
The UK already has one of the world’s largest offshore wind capacities and indeed is the largest in Europe, so the situation is not all bad. Indeed the UK is one of the most energy dense nations in the world for tidal and wind. So it was only natural that many commentators would point out what a difference £100bn+ worth of investment could have made to our renewables sector.
Energy for the people
Ever since I was in my late teens (in the late 90s) I have longed dreamed of taking socialist principles into the capitalist world. Now would have been the perfect time to have started this.
The leading example of this is perhaps Norway, who used the profits made from oil to create a sovereign wealth fund that is now worth a staggering 12,054,336,402,386NOK (£1,047bn). A significant investment from this this fund was recently moved into renewables – for the people by the people – by purchasing the world’s second-largest wind farm. Unfortunately, the fund has recently taken its biggest ever loss, due to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine amongst other things, but it does still show what you can do when people are put first.
Norway can now produce 98% of its energy needs (mainly via hydro and marine) and intends to expand its offshore wind capacity to become a net exporter of renewable energy. In contrast, Truss decided to literally give shareholders £150bn of our money, with our children paying for this over the rest of their lifetimes.
And what is her great vision on energy?
Truss lifts the ban on fracking
Truss announced a lifting of the ban on fracking, despite the fact that a government-commissioned report by the British Geological Survey has still not been released publicly. Fracking was banned in England in 2019 due to minor earthquakes at test sites in Lancashire. With the North West set to be besieged by fracking it’s no wonder under Truss’s regime voters in a recent council by-election there switched their voting elegances from Conservative to Green. Tory voters in 2019 must feel fools for believing the party’s manifesto which stated: “We will not support fracking unless the science shows categorically that it can be done safely.”
I don’t use the term ‘regime’ lightly. It’s becoming ever clearer that Truss’s government – like Johnson’s government – does not act in the best interests of the country. Fracking being back on the agenda has almost certainly come from Tufton Street right-wing think tanks like Net Zero Watch, funded by US oil “dark money”.
Within just a few days of her premiership, it is 100% evident that Truss has chosen to side with the energy companies and set herself against the best interests of the people of the UK.
Profit is a dirty word
Oil and gas companies have made an average $3bn a day profit for the last 50 years. Yet during the leadership election when Truss was asked whether there should be a windfall tax, she replied: “I don’t think profit is a dirty word.”
Correct. Profit is not a dirty word. Unless you’re making profits at the expense of a nation where four in nine regions have child poverty rates of more than 50% (and this was before the likes of BP and Shell starting raking in vast fortunes while people this winter will have to choose between heating and eating).
What promises did Truss make, in return for that £100,000 given to her during her leadership campaign? Andwhere does this all leave her now?
This is a problem for Truss
On the day of the new prime minister’s announcement of her plans to deal with the energy crisis, 38 Degrees held a snap poll. It showed that 74% – a huge majority – support paying for the energy price increases through a windfall tax on excess profits. Significantly, this includes an incredible 84% of 2019 Conservative voters – they support the windfall tax idea even more than Labour voters do.
So, will Truss regret dancing to the tune of the Tufton Street cabal? You bet.
The Conservative government is clearly working to enrich those around them instead of the people of the nation who are getting poorer by the day, and who feel it every time the fill up the car or go to the supermarket. At some point this will come back to bite them and most likely at the ballot box. After the endless Sex scandals, lining their own pockets with dodgy PPE contracts, watching porn in Parliament, Party Gate and now Truss siding with energy companies over us, one can only hope the people make their feelings know at the next general election.