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NPF Policy Responses: Environment, Energy and Transport

The National Policy Forum has made the strange decision to group culture with the environment and energy. Meanwhile, transport is placed, not completely without justification, with local government and housing. However, as transport is a major consumer of energy and a transport policy will be essential to fighting climate change, I decided to address it along with energy and the environment, in place of culture.

Climate Change

The NPF document rightly identifies climate change as one of the greatest challenges of the century. However, beyond this, it has little to say. It refers to the Paris Agreement of 2015, but does not acknowledge that the stated goal of keeping warming below 2°C, or even 1.5°C, is not going to be achieved with the emissions commitment which were made. Nor is the magnitude of the challenge of keeping temperatures below those limits recognised. It seems inconceivable that it could be done without state-directed economic planning on a scale previously unseen in the West during peacetime.

Three omissions by this policy document should be noted. The first is its failure to mention high-potency greenhouse gases such as methane, nitrous oxide, and fluorinated gases. When weighted for global warming potential, these make up nearly 20% of UK emissions, with methane being the most significant. Typically, emissions of these gases are easier to prevent than those of carbon dioxide, so rapid action should be taken to reduce them. Secondly, no reference is made to the use of “negative emissions” technology, which most plans for combatting climate change now require. This will involve planting trees, burning them, and sequestering the released carbon underground. Finally, the effect of land use changes (e.g. deforestation, conversion to agriculture) is not mentioned, although at least one climate plan requires net emissions from this to reach zero by 2050. Overall, it appears that the authors of this document know little about climate change or mitigation policies.

The closest the NPF comes to suggesting actual policy is to commit that “By investing £500 billion in infrastructure backed up by a publicly owned National Investment Bank and regional banks we will build a high-skilled, high tech, low carbon economy to help generate a million good quality jobs.” Lacking any details of what sorts of investments are involved, this pledge is useless. Where specific sectors, such as energy, are mentioned, no solutions are proposed. In the following sections, some priority sectors will be examined in closer detail and some broad policies put forward.

Energy

More than once, the NPF comments on the importance of decarbonising energy while at the same time tackling energy bills. The obvious tension between wanting to “curb energy bill rises” while at the same time invest in new energy infrastructure is never acknowledged. While it is said that the “energy market is in need of reform”, the very existence of a market is never questioned; despite widespread support for renationalisation, the most the NPF has to say on this issue is calling for a “National Investment Bank to promote public investment and community ownership across future energy solutions”.

Although acknowledging that “A fully costed low carbon energy platform that includes renewables, nuclear and green gas should be developed and publicly financed options should be considered to ensure that the UK has a low carbon economy that works for consumers moving forwards”, no effort has been taken to do this. As I have argued elsewhere, any realistic decarbonisation plan will need to rely heavily on nuclear energy. Although this is an unpopular proposition among many on the left, we need to face up to the impossibility of powering Britain solely off of her own renewables.

Nuclear power can be most effectively deployed by the state using a standardised design, adding another advantage to nationalisation. As I have argued in the past, a new Power Generation Board (PGB), tasked with decarbonising the entire electricity supply, should be created out of existing nuclear and renewable capacity and be given control over the national grid. This would go some way to ending the absurdity which is the market in electricity and thus give the stability needed for the PGB to make long-term investments.

To eliminate fuel poverty, progressive tariffs could be used. This would see every household given a minimum amount of electricity at low or zero-cost, with the price per additional kilowatt-hour rising to current levels and above as more is used. The price bands could be structured such that high-use customers are effectively paying for the electricity of low-use customers. However, for this to work, all consumers would need to be buying from the same electricity supplier, meaning that this sector should also be nationalised.

Little is said in the NPF document about non-electric energy use. As electricity only represents 20% of energy used, this is a glaring omission. “Green gas” is mentioned and this could be introduced into the gas supply as a short-term measure to reduce emissions from heating. Some hydrogen could also be added and, if appliances were converted, the gas supply could be switched entirely to hydrogen. However, for new houses (and, in the mid-term, for existing ones), better energy efficiency can achieved using electric heat pumps.

Finally, nothing is said in the document about energy efficiency. All new homes should be built to the highest standards of insulation and, to the extent feasible, old homes should be retrofitted. New home designs should try maximise daylight and heat from the sun. Even in the NPF document on housing, such things are not considered. Appliances should be subject to strict efficiency requirements and the government could create a program to buy old, inefficient models back from citizens.

Agriculture

Agriculture is included in environmental policy, although the main focus of the NPF draft seems to be on the issue of subsidies post-Brexit. I will leave this issue to someone who knows more about agricultural economics. However, it might be worth considering whether a system of supply management could replace subsidies. This would involve farmers selling to marketing boards which they run in partnership with the state. The marketing boards then operate a monopoly on wholesale and return any profits to the farmers. For the system to be effective, controls would be required on imports and exports of the managed products, which may not be possible depending on the UK’s relationship with the EU.

Agriculture is also a major source of greenhouse gases, making up 10% of the UK’s total. These are mostly in the form of methane and nitrous oxide. The former is produced in the digestive systems of livestock (particularly cattle) while the latter comes from the use of fertilisers. While this is not an area which I am greatly knowledgeable about, measures such as more precise application of fertiliser, better soil management, different crop rotations, new animal feeds, supplements to animal feeds, and breading could all play a role. Any agricultural subsidies should be made conditional on farmers taking action to reduce their emissions.

Transport

The only policies which can be found within the NPF report on transport are to take “the railways back into public ownership” and “give local authorities franchising powers to run and manage their local bus routes”. While the inadequacy and expense of public transport are acknowledged, there are no concrete proposals to tackle either.

Rail

While the commitment to bring rail franchises back into public ownership is laudable, there are many other questions to be answered about rail. First, what is to happen to the Rolling Stock Companies (ROSCOs) which lease the trains to the franchise operators? These are obscenely profitable and have failed to adequately invest in new rolling stock. Unlike the franchises, nationalising the ROSCOs would be quite expensive. One approach would be for the government to regulate them and trim the profit margins. Where new rolling stock is introduced, it should be publicly owned. As decarbonisation demands a campaign of rail electrification, plenty of new stock will be required. It would be worth considering recreating British Rail Engineering Limited to build this in-house.

Network Rail present another question. Currently it provides a hidden subsidy to the train operators by charging artificially low track access fees. The difference is made up by a government grant and borrowing. With each infrastructure upgrade, its debt continues to balloon. While not sustainable, this has led to increased investment compared to the days of British Rail, when funding was at the whim of whoever was in government. A new model is clearly needed, but what it should be is unclear. Furthermore, the question of exactly what new investments are needed in rail (e.g. electrification) needs to be addressed.

A final consideration for rail is how a newly nationalised sector should be structured. It has been suggested that the railways should be more decentralised than they were under British Rail. Allowing large local authorities to manage commuter rail, in the model of London Overground, does seem reasonable. However, devolving regional rail services risks continuing the fragmentation which has marked the sector since privatisation. A compromise could be to have a single national company with representation of local and regional governments in the administration of regional routes.

Buses

It is welcome that the buses are acknowledged by the NPF. They say the want to give local authorities “franchising powers to run and manage their local bus routes”. Presumably this refers to a system like in London where, even if buses are privately operated, they do so under contract with a local authority which sets and collects fares, determines routes, provide cross-subsidisation, etc. The central government should provide funding to help councils remunicipalise bus services and should encourage integration of buses with the rail system. Regional and national buses were not mentioned by the report, but these should also be taken back into public ownership. New buses should be electrically powered.

Other Public Transport

No reference is made to other forms of transport. It is worth considering whether current ferry services are adequate and whether these should be brought back into the public sector. Ferry service could be integrated with rail so as to provide a seamless alternative to flying. Rationalising air routes would also go some way to reducing emissions from aviation, suggesting that renationalisation of airports and re-regulation of airlines should be on the table.

A running theme in my recommendations has been the need to integrate transport across jurisdictions and modes to make it a more viable alternative to driving and flying. There is a strong argument for local transport to be fare-free, making it more accessible and encouraging use by everyone. Regional and national travel would still require fares, but a single ticketing system should be adopted across the entire country for buses, trains, and ferries, allowing trips to be planned and purchased in a single place.

Private Vehicles

Private transport goes completely unmentioned by the NPF. While an affordable and comprehensive mass transit system will go some way to reducing the use of private automobiles, it obviously can not eliminate it. A date should be set (e.g. in the mid-2020s) beyond which all cars sold in Britain must have zero-emissions. For this to be practical, an expansion in charging infrastructure is needed for electric cars. Fast charging stations could be placed at petrol stations, with (cheaper) slower ones in car-parks. A public electrical company would be ideally placed to operate these.

Conclusion

Climate change is perhaps the greatest threat humanity has ever faced and mitigating it will be a task similar in scale to conversion to a wartime economy. The NPF displays no awareness of this fact and has made no effort to draw up the detailed plans required, instead contenting themselves with vague, feel-good slogans. If Britain and the rest of the world continue to take such an approach, then climate change will be a catastrophe and perhaps even an existential threat to future generations.

 

17 Comments

  1. JohnP says:

    Transport is, I suspect, placed , at first sight strangely, with local government , as a demonstration of the still utterly dominant New Labour era based buy-in to ever greater neoliberalism-assisting “cantonisation” of the UK into ever small, politically/economically weak, regional and sub-regional units.

    Whilst the vast population base and resources of London might justify transport issues, within the Greater London area, s being looked after at a London level, this makes no sense at all on a national level for the very broad issue of “transportation”. The idea of the railways being “taken back into public ownership” – on a regional basis, is a complete joke.

    Labour still has no conception nowadays of the vital importance of Nationwide Comprehensive planning – across Transportation , Energy, Education, Economy, Healthcare, regional planning, etc. Just as a core strategic element in breaking up the NHS for privatisation was its deliberate division into national and regional and local components, so the implementation of Austerity and privatisation depends upon breaking up the UK into ever smaller competing national and regional, and sub-regional units. And for the deeply corrupt Labour Right (an absolutely key factor behind the motivation of the Right about which the tragically naïve Labour Left are in permanent denial) , that they will get a personal “share of the action” , as well rewarded regional mayors and senior local council Cabinet members in these multi-function “devolved” units, like the “Northern Powerhouse” con trick.

    Most “devolution” as it is practiced today is a con trick, empowering no-one but the venal local coteries of corrupt career politicians, of all the major parties , and further weakening the ability of the UK population to withstand the privatisation and Austerity agenda of globalised Big Business.

    As your review describes – as with every one of the latest puerile drafts of the NPF Policy documents, they are all utterly trapped within the 30 year neoliberal consensus, exhibit no research base, and have no answers , other than empty slogans, to ANY of the environmental, housing, educational, health, defence or economic, problems faced by the UK. I think they must all have been cut and pasted together by the same 20 year old neoliberal SPAD at Party HQ .

    1. C MacMackin says:

      The policy statements are barely even neoliberal, they are so vacuous. There are (in my opinion ineffective) neoliberal proposals for climate change action based around markets in carbon credits, environmental taxes, favouring consumption taxes over income taxes, incentives to make companies decarbonise, etc. The system currently used in Britain for incentivising the purchase of renewable energy is a particularly egregious example. But whoever wrote these documents hasn’t even done the work to come up with something like that. These things look like they were knocked off in a couple of hours. I mean, this article took maybe a day and a half of work on my part and contains far more in terms of actual policy.

      I agree, a national transport policy is urgently needed. Things like rail, ferries, ports, and airports (ideally airlines as well) should be owned and managed at the national level. That said, I think it makes more sense for local buses to be run by councils. They’d likely have a better sense of how to run services (which require planning on a much smaller scale than, say, rail) than would a single national company. There could also be a place for regional routes to be run by regional governments. However, long-distance services such as those run by National Express absolutely need to be nationalised.

      As I have said in the past, the obsession with “local ownership” of energy results in policies that are not only neoliberal but, in the case of energy co-ops, downright Thatcherite. The irony is that most people see renewable energy as conducive to such local ownership structures, but I think the opposite is the case. If we were to try to power the entire country off of renewables (which almost certainly can’t be done) then it would require nation-wide coordination between energy production, consumption, and storage. Generation and storage infrastructure would have to be planned to complement each other. All of this would require even more central planning than a mass roll-out of nuclear energy and would necessitate nationalisation.

      1. JohnP says:

        I agree. Doubly so on the slippery current very New Labourish enthusiasm, even from McDonnell and his circle (who should know better), for co-operatives as an “alternative” ownership form- rather than either local authority, or national government, control of services – from schools to energy supply to healthcare.

        There is nothing automatically “socialistic” about worker or consumer co-operatives. They are being used across the UK at present to provide a transitional step between separation from local authority control, for sports centres, libraries, schools, to under-resourced volunteer local groups doomed to fail – prior to complete privatisation.

        Co-operatives have their roles, at the margins, but a whole lot of inevitably competing worker or consumer “controlled” services or factories, within a capitalist market, is a route to even greater neoliberalism, not socialism.

        Even that famous Left-approved exemplar of the workers co-op movement – Mondragon in the Basque country, has been having a very hard time in recent years in the austerity-ridden Spanish/EU economy. Mondragon has “outsourced” significant work to China – at the cost of local jobs ! Such is capitalism – for co-ops as for every enterprise. I spent 5 years helping to create workers co-ops in Liverpool in the 80’s. A total waste of time.

  2. Bazza says:

    I will briefly suggest a few things as policy actions which we all could suggest be added to each area; we don’t want ‘War and Peace’ we perhaps just need 12 or so simple action points to say what we will do to add to JC’s statements:
    ENERGY
    * Take the public utilities into democratic public ownership with staff electing qualified boards and communities having a say.
    (Argument – more efficient, whilst we may have some democratic publicly controlled industries such as mail and rail allowed to break even we could try a different model here.
    We could draw from history from the old Coop Divi and pay an Annual Utility Divi – people could take this as money or it could be used to offset against bills which could help those in fuel poverty.
    But the important things is people may then feel they are theirs and hopefully will be “nailed down” in case future Tory carpet baggers try to come for them – which they will).
    TRANSPORT
    * Free public transport especially on the buses.
    (and a member at a branch meeting who also supported this idea added you could also have a congestion charge in cities to help pay for it).
    (Argument – so why do we pay our own fares on the bus or train to get to work or buy cars and petrol to get there, why do we subsidise employers?
    This could: help the transport poor, be more efficient, mean less stress on bus drivers, it may attract people out of cars (it is not anti-car and people can still use cars when more convenient) and be better for the environment and air quality, it could help in reducing traffic and congestion and it could mean safer roads, quieter roads, fresher air! It could also mean that more people may feel more confident in cycling to work etc.
    We could also have couriers on board to help passengers and for passenger safety.
    It can’t be done some may say but apparently the Socialist Mayor of Paris (with similar air quality problems to London and our major cities) has just introduced it!
    I can remember the petrol strike from many years ago; I used to live near a noisy road and that morning the roads were quieter, the air was fresher, there were less cars and more people were cycling – perhaps “I saw the future and it works!”)
    So come on LF readers suggest your few action bullet points in each policy area and build our 12 point policy action lists!
    Perhaps Neo-Liberalism’s greatest victory was to stop the Left from dreaming, its time to start dreaming again and no-one will laugh at you.
    Solidarity!

  3. David Pavett says:

    A very useful article by Chris M. The draft pays lip service to the issues like climate change but steers clear of trying to face up to the immensity of the problems to be solved if we are to take the question seriously. This is politics of a very low level sort.

    Chris submitted his arguments about nuclear power and the necessity for a publicly owned and directed solution if we really want to meet agreed de-carbonisation targets. The draft gives no indication that the commission has received such weighty arguments or that it is under any obligation to answer them. What price “consultation”.

    Chris is also right about transport as a major energy consumer. Very roughly I think one can say that energy consumption is one third households, one third industry/commerce and one third transport. This means that public transport policy and the need to reduce private transport is a major issue which its completely ignored by the commission.

    Years ago when the Greater London Council started its “Fares Fair” policy for London’s public transport there was an incredible shift from private to public transport before the experiment was declared illegal as the result of a case brought by the then Conservative leader of Bromley Council. There are clear lessons to be learned but they seem lost on the Energy Commission.

    My only issue with what Chris has written is that it would be useful to have the consequences of his analysis spelled out in terms of alternative texts/amendments to the draft document. Perhaps he could supply such suggestions in response to this discussion.

    1. C MacMackin says:

      David, I don’t suppose you know of any good resources on GLC transit policy and its effects? It could be useful to have them to cite.

      1. David Pavett says:

        I remember it from an Evening Standard report at the time. I was astounded that in a matter of months there was a measurable shift of the travelling public. But I am afraid that I do not have references on this.

        In his book The Subterranean Railway, Altantic Books 2nd Edition 2005, Christian Wolmar says “Fares Fair may have been controversial, but it revitalised the Underground, turningit into a popular political cause as well as increasing passenger numbers. The fall in fares which covered both buses and th Underground had an immediate impact boosting the number of passengers using London Transport each day from 5.5 million to 6 million and reducing the number of cars coming into central London.”

        Wolmar is a traffic expert and a Labour Party member. I suggest that you write to him to ask for exact references. I would be surprised if he did not help you on that.

  4. John Walsh says:

    “This is politics of a very low level sort” – pompous twaddle from DP and another example of sickly Facebook-style vacuous matey chatter that this website used to be distinctive for not being infected by. Disappointing (I’ll provide an example of why later – football is more important for the time being).

    1. David Pavett says:

      “Pompous twaddle”?

      My reference to low level politics was to the draft’s statements evasion of clear commitments in a document which is supposed to be formulating policy for party members to consider. I had in mind statements like

      A fully costed low carbon energy platform that includes renewables, nuclear and green gas should be developed and publicly financed options should be considered to ensure that the UK has a low carbon economy that works for consumers moving forwards.

      You think my rejection of such half-offers to make a policy in a document supposedly formulating policy is an example of “sickly Facebook-style vacuous matey chatter …”.

      The value of your judgement is for others to consider for themselves.

  5. C MacMackin says:

    David, I’ll work on putting something like that together this week. Frankly, I suspect the existing policy statement is unamendable (unless, by amendment, we mean “Remove text in its entirety and replace with…”). I’ll rewrite this into an alternative text regarding climate change and another regarding transport. I’m uncertain as to what extent I should focus on principles/broad goals and to what extent on individual measures, though. I was under the impression that the policy commissions are supposed to come up with detailed policy of the sort which would find its way into the manifesto. While this article doesn’t reach that level of detail, I very much wrote it with that in mind. However, the current policy statements are nothing like that, so perhaps I should focus my arguments more on broad goals. Thoughts?

    I’d be interested to hear what people have to say about my suggestion of using supply management in place of agricultural subsidies. The link I provide in the article gives a fairly quick introduction to how it works. As far as I know, only Canada uses such a system, but it definitely has its advantages. As well as saving the government money, it goes a long way towards decommodifying the sectors which it manages. However, it would be a radical departure from existing agricultural policy and the class composition of farm owners in Britain compared to Canada may make it unsuitable. As such, I’d be hesitant to submit that as part of an alternative document just yet.

    John Walsh, your response is about what I expected. Since you have indicated that you want less on detailed policy and more on political philosophy, I’ll attempt to sum up the philosophy which underlies my writing. I believe that climate change is a terrible threat to our society and that we have now left combating it so late, that radical action will be required. This will be a project of similar magnitude to the conversion to a war-time economy, which will require at least the same levels of planning (e.g. in energy, transit, housing, etc.) over even longer timescales. The problem is, climate change does not pose the immediate threat to British capital that Hitler did. Therefore, capital will be unwilling to submit to the discipline required for an effective response and bourgeois governments aren’t even going to try. Our only hope is a radical left government which is willing to take the action necessary to force capital to comply, likely resulting in a great many sectors ending up under public control. To do this will require a much more militant and politically aware labour movement than currently exists. Crucially, such a movement will have to be aware of the scale of the problem and the scale of the solutions. What you see as just an apolitical, technocratic wishlist in meant to demonstrates how massive, comprehensive, and detailed our climate policy will have to be. Developing it will be a Herculean task and, at present, I frankly don’t think the Left is up to it.

    1. David Pavett says:

      I suggest that any amending has to be replacement of whole chunks of the document. This is what I have proposed in my suggestions for the Early Years, Education and Skills draft. I think my piece on this is going to be published soon in these columns.

  6. John Walsh says:

    Another example of a waste-of-time, politics-free, wish-list for “let’s make the world a better place” first-year undergraduate essay – i.e. amazingly, probably less use than the NPF docs! Focus in on the issue of energy efficiency for why this is so and how discussion on here could be useful …

    The writer notes that the NPF doc doesn’t mention energy efficiency and then states the bleedin obvious – “all new homes should be built to the highest standards of insulation”. Thanks for that insight, except hold on – LeftFutues is supposed to be about “Good writing. Sharp criticism. Open debate.”. In this example, that might involve asking why there’s no mention of energy efficiency?, are there political obstacles which make this topic problematic?, might this be a topic that connects to other politically unpalatable topics? and so on. Some background …

    Back in 2006 when the Labour government committed to zero carbon homes by 2016 who could have predicted that within a decade that commitment would be written off and worse, there would be a loss of any political will to make the changes we all know are needed. How has this happened? Of course, industry lobbying has been effective and the main players in housebuilding are powerful. But, what of the electorate? Given our neoliberal snowflake culture how has protecting our grandchildren’s future slipped of the agenda? How could the umbrella issue here – climate change – be re-energised?, reshaped for the electorate? I’m not trying to provide answers, just examples of politically useful questions for a discussion about developing energy policy.

    And instead we get the nonsense idea of “progressive [energy] tariffs”. D’oh! – rich people live in well insulated, triple glazed, solar PV panel sporting houses stuffed with ‘A’ rated appliance and take long mid-winter holidays in Barbados / poor people live in draughty, single glazed, poorly insulated houses, use the cheapest energy sucking appliances and can’t afford winter holidays. The idea of free electricity for rich people and charging above the going rate for poor people who have no choice is so bad I ask the question again – which side are you on Student Grant?

    Instead, if members on here want to talk about details – presumably, the ‘low level’ politics DP mentions – here’s one I heard the other day. Promote the design and use of software on laptops, tablets and phones that stops battery charging (if the device can still function) during peak electricity demand times. It’s one way of reducing peak demand which can be instigated by consumers, it reduces the need to ‘go nuclear’ and instead opens the door a little wider to renewables. It goes against the neoliberal grain as it empowers consumers. Thoughts anyone and any more useful energy related ideas?

    1. JohnP says:

      Why the unnecessarily hostile, dismissive response to both David Pavett’s and C.Mack’s contributions, John Walsh ?

      Your own proposal to solve our energy crisis seems to amount only to:

      “the design and use of software on laptops, tablets and phones that stops battery charging (if the device can still function) during peak electricity demand times.”

      Unfair ? Maybe – but not as unfair as your aggressive dismissal of David and C.Mack’s contributions to this very complex topic area.

    2. David Pavett says:

      @john Walsh. It is a shame that you think that Chris M, as opposed to the draft NPL document, is avoiding discussion of detail. I can’t imagine what kind of reading could lead to a conclusion so clearly at variance with the facts.

      Chris has put detailed and weight arguments on nuclear power in previous articles on LF.

      Your solution: stop computers recharging at peak times. Have you any idea of the details of this in terms of power demand? Why stop at computers? What about hands free phones, mobile phones? Have you any idea what any of this means in power terms compared to say putting more water in a kettle than you actually need or being to lavish with hot water from a tap?

    3. C MacMackin says:

      There are two reasons why I only talk a little about efficiency. The first is that I know less about it than other areas of energy policy. If you, or someone else, who knows more about efficiency would like to write a piece on it, then it would be a very useful contribution to the debate on here. The reason other is space; this article was already quite long by LF standards. Note, however, that moving people onto public transit and the electrification of transport (which I did discuss) would both realise significant efficiency gains in that sector.

      A number of measures which I call for here and in the past (insulation, heat pumps, strategic placing of windows, district heating, etc.) are features of zero-carbon homes. However, I have already expressed my doubts about the usefulness of other technologies (such as PV) used in these homes. I have also questioned how achievable it would be to retrofit existing housing to this standard. You have not addressed any of these questions. One technology which I admit I could have paid more attention to is the use of heat storage coupled with solar-thermal panels–this is something which should definitely be considered, although it probably won’t be enough on its own to see a house through the winter.

      Your points on the pitfalls of progressive electricity tarriffs are definitely worth considering. Presumeably the distribution of energy use with income is not monotonic, as I had (naively) first assumed. We’d need to dig down into data to see how this would all shake out and if there would be some way to structure tarrifs so as to be progressive in outcome. Do recall, however, that I have called for a program to upgrade houses’s energy efficiency and to incentivise the buying of better appliances, both of which would help to offset some of the issues you raised.

      A back-of-the envelope calculation using data from the US Department of Energy suggests that energy use from laptops would average about 250MW. Let’s say that tablets and phones double that figure. We’d still be talking about managing only 10% of current electricity usage, and about 2% of current energy usage. Arguably it would be a useful approach, but it would come nowhere close to the sort of action we need. Moreover, most people either charge them at night (when demand is low anyway) or when absolutely needed (when they’ll be unwilling to put it off). What you consider to be “empowering consumers” would in fact either have to rely on people being purely altruistic on this issue (which could get you some uptake, but only so much, and in any case isn’t particularly anti-neoliberal in its approach) or on using peak-energy pricing, which would mean that having your devices charged whenever you want becomes a luxury for the rich. I might ask you “which side are you on”?

      I fail to see how an article which calls for nationalisation of energy and transport while emphasising the need for state-directed economic planning on a scale not seen since WWII can be called apolitical. I am under no illusions that the measures I have called for here would meet stiff opposition from capital. It will be vital for a Left government not to bow to the pressure of, e.g., the construction industry (and to simply nationalise it should it prove uncooperative). The scale of this program is such that I suspect banks will also need to be nationalised in order to finance it. It is due to the enormous scale of the effort needed to really do something about climate change, and its incompatibility with neoliberalism, that I think it has not been widely discussed. People have also been faced with more immediate concerns such as unemployment, getting their kids into a good school, caring for relatives, etc. While I certainly don’t claim to have all of the answer for how to make people start caring, I think developing a plan which will ensure full employment and address various other basic needs would be a good place to start. We will also have to work on developing their political capacities to comprehend the scope of the problem. I am working on the first one not because I think it is sufficient, but because it is something I know how to do.

  7. C MacMackin says:

    I’ve reworked the contents of this article (with some alterations based on comments) into a form more suitable for use amending the NPF documents, as David suggested. I’ve sent a copy to James Elliot (who is handling these topics for the CLPD) and will also be submitting it to the NPF website over the next day or so. This document can be found here.

  8. C MacMackin says:

    I’ve submitted work based on this document to the NPF. It had to be split into two parts: one dealing with transport and the other dealing with the environment, agriculture, and energy. If anyone has an account on the NPF website, any votes for these articles would be appreciated!

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