It emerged today that the Prime Minister has blocked the launch of a public information campaign to encourage the public to save energy this winter. Work on the campaign was at an advanced stage and had been endorsed by Jacob Rees-Mogg, but Downing Street blocked it amid claims that Liz Truss is ideologically opposed to the concept and doesn’t want to ‘tell people how to live ” .
The failure to launch a national public information campaign to reduce demand during a war with the UK facing an energy crisis is deeply irresponsible and the reasoning behind it is childish. It’s not the “nanny state” gone mad, it’s a sensible move that can educate the public, save them money, and most importantly, potentially prevent blackouts. A serious government would not hesitate.
The public is alerted to the danger by front-page news that the national grid has issued stark warnings that the country will face blackouts within months if shortages of supply in Europe mean we cannot import enough gas. If we suffer outages that could have been avoided by reducing demand, the government will have to accept some of the blame for abdicating responsibility now. It would take a long time for people to forgive the Conservative Party for not keeping the lights on.
The proposed £15million information campaign had planned to urge the public to lower boiler temperatures, turn off radiators in empty rooms and turn off heating when they go out. As campaigns go, it is relatively unambitious and would likely pay for itself in household savings of around £300 a year. Yet in defending the Prime Minister’s misguided decision, MP Maria Caulfield said Liz Truss was right to question whether it was the ‘best use of taxpayers’ money’. It’s a very confusing way to look at the economy.
£15million is a rounding error in government terms, especially against estimates of up to £100billion to pay for the government’s energy package. The campaign only has to reduce energy consumption modestly enough to reduce the cost of this energy package and then more than pay for itself. Energy price caps, by making gas and electricity more affordable, could also deter people from reducing demand, so they need to be encouraged consume less and informed in How? ‘Or’ What do this.
In Europe, the problem is taken seriously. EU member states collectively agreed to cut demand by 15% this winter and launched far more ambitious initiatives than the plan Liz Truss blocked. France, Germany and other European countries have implemented reduction measures such as: urging retailers and advertisers to turn off nighttime lighting, turning off hot water for hand washing in public spaces , turn off the night lighting of public buildings and monuments, no public building should be hotter than 19 degrees, lowering the temperature of swimming pools. This is what our government should be doing right now.
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People need to emphasize the seriousness of the situation. There is an energy crisis. There is a war in Europe. Britain may not be fighting, but it is heavily involved in this proxy war, providing financial, military and diplomatic support, and this is having negative consequences. The government should appeal to citizens’ sense of duty, patriotism and morality and tell them that they can support their country, Ukraine and others by doing what they can to reduce their energy consumption.
The government must prepare the public and be honest with the country. By providing practical advice, he could at best avert disaster and at worst save people money. However great or small the risk of breakdowns and rationing, the risk is real and must be managed and mitigated appropriately.
This is not about the nanny state or a debate between libertarianism and interventionism. It is about responsible government acting in the face of a crisis. If Liz Truss doesn’t understand that, she’s not qualified to be prime minister.
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