We have recently heard the sad news of steel closures in Rotherham and Redcar – thousands of jobs sacrificed to climate hysteria and Brussels diktats (as I said in my Conference Speech). Yet here in the European parliament we are debating proposed “reforms” of the EU’s Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS) specifically designed to cut emissions by forcing up energy prices, tightening on the squeeze on energy-intensive businesses which are already voting with their feet and taking their business, their jobs and their investments out of the EU altogether.
It is heart-breaking that the Commission seems blissfully unaware of the damage it is doing (after all, it’s not Commissioners who are losing their jobs).
Agriculture is not much better. Fertiliser costs are being forced up by emissions controls. Effective (and cost-effective) pesticides are being banned. They will be replaced by older, less effective (and arguably less safe) pesticides. Or we may end up with no local production at all. We’ll import the same crops from other countries which still use the banned pesticides.
Draconian emissions controls are being proposed, which would severely limit the ability of farmers to use tractors. They are talking about controlling methane from the flatulence of cattle (honestly – I’m not making this up). The Commission suggests a higher protein diet – less grass, more soya beans. But that is prohibitively expensive. Another plan is to breed less flatulent cattle. But that’s a hundred-year project – and by 2115, I’m confident that climate alarmism will be no more than a bizarre footnote in early 21st Century history.
Of course breeding less flatulent cattle would be facilitated by GM techniques and cloning — but the EU doesn’t like those either.
In industry after industry, the insouciant Brussels bureaucrats are doing huge damage, and ignoring the consequences. The prospects for European economies are dire.
During w/c September 21st, I attended a number of events dealing with up-coming “reforms” to the EU’s perverse Emissions Trading System (ETS), and indeed I wrote up two of these events in my recent Blog “Towards a Soviet-style economy“.
On the Wednesday evening, I attended yet another such event, “How to redesign the European Electricity Market to preserve the competitiveness of the energy-intensive industries”. It was a deeply depressing affair. The title recognised the danger – indeed the fact – of “carbon leakage” – that is, of major industries moving out of the EU, closing plants, taking jobs and investment with them, and often going to jurisdictions with lower environmental standards where their emissions would arguably be higher than if they had stayed in Europe. But the debate was all about the itsy-bitsy detail of the allocation of emissions permits, and subsidies and derogations and billing methods, and the real point – how to stop the haemorrhage of major industries – went by default.
It’s a tired cliché, but never more appropriate: they were fiddling while Rome burned.
In my remarks, I started by challenging the title of the event. As Adam Smith would have said, free markets arise through the individual and self-interested decisions of thousands of separate economic actors. Each individual considers only his own interests, but without any planning, out of many separate and individual decisions, a market arises, and that market serves both the market actors and the common good. The market is what mathematicians sometimes describe as “an emergent property” – a form of self-organisation.
The moment you start to assume that bureaucrats and legislators can “design” markets, you have taken a large and dangerous step away from free markets, and towards central planning (as I said in my blog).
I said a great deal more, but I concluded: You intended that the ETS should send a price signal to the market. And so it has. And the signal you have sent to major energy-intensive industries in Europe is “GO TO CHINA!”.