Ruth Lea was in fighting form on CentreRight yesterday evening:
"As the economy staggers through its worst downturn for nearly 30 years, much will be made of how the development of “green-collar jobs” will renew our manufacturing base and lead the economy to new fields of prosperity. This is, sadly, all too likely to be wishful thinking as we generally do not have the technology or the manufacturing capacity required for such a “green revolution”. Nuclear technology (which in the green lexicon does not even count as “green”) is dominated by the French; wind technology, biomass, solar technology is dominated by the Germans and Carbon Capture and Storage (probably 10-15 years away commercially) is also dominated by the Germans. Electric vehicle and hydrogen fuel cell technologies are dominated by the US, Germany and Japan – and are in any case estimated to be around 20-30 years away commercially. We really must not fantasise. And in the meantime the increasing burdens of “green” electricity costs will drive our energy intensive industries, including steel and chemicals, offshore."
It’s a vital question because whenever voters have been asked to pay for environmental protection in recent times they have answered ‘no thank you’ – from Canada to California to Manchester. Irwin Stelzer notes green campaigners’ fury at the inclusion of more coal-fired power plants in Barack ‘great green hope’ Obama’s controversial stimulus package.
Yesterday we saw the biggest sign yet that UK Conservatives were seeing the conflict between green measures and growth. Boris Johnson suspended the third stage of London’s low emissions zone in order, he said, to protect small businesses:
"It is not the right time to press ahead with extending it to include smaller vehicles like vans and minibuses. Many of these will be owned by small businesses, charities, and self-employed Londoners already hard hit by the recession. Simply put, the cost of fitting pollution equipment or getting a new vehicle would have come as punch in the ribs to those who need our help at this time, would have destroyed profit margins, and endangered our businesses."
London’s Green Party called the decision "an absolute disaster for London’s environment".
"It’s easy to cut emissions by destroying jobs. The real challenge is to get less pollution and more jobs. Local initiatives are – properly – a matter for local, not central, government. In this case the Mayor of London proposes to continue his current low emissions scheme, but, rather than widen it to penalise smaller vehicles belonging to small businesses, instead to boost the market for innovative alternatives such as electric vehicles, low-emissions taxis and hybrid buses. That way, he can help create jobs and cut emissions."
We need a serious and big picture statement from Greg Clark or even David Cameron himself on how they plan to reconcile their extraordinarily ambitious targets to cut the UK’s carbon emissions with the number one priority of the British voter; a return to job-creating, income-enhancing economic growth.