By Matthew Barrett
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The Daily Telegraph reported this morning:
"The Prime Minister has been warned that government plans to get people to reduce their bills through efficiency measures are likely to fail. Mr Cameron’s senior energy adviser pours scorn on claims by Chris Huhne, the Energy Secretary, that rises in gas and oil prices will be offset by people using less power. A note by the adviser describes his department’s analysis as “unconvincing”. It warns that the Government’s move to increased nuclear power, wind turbines and other measures will add 30 per cent to the average family’s annual energy bill of £1,069 by the end of the decade. Mr Cameron is said to be “very worried” about the figures in the paper, written by Ben Moxham, his senior energy adviser who was recently brought in to beef up the Prime Minister’s policy unit."
This is, one hopes, a sign that Downing Street may be waking up to the rising price of fuel. Mr Cameron has not shown much urgency in dealing with this issue – an issue that many voters are very concerned about. Indeed, Nigel Lawson, the former Chancellor of the Exchequer, condemned the Prime Minister and the Coalition for its relaxed attitude towards the economic harm climate change policies are causing in the pursuit of the government's pledge to be "the greenest government ever". He wrote in the Daily Mail:
"The Government’s highly damaging decarbonisation policy, enshrined in the absurd Climate Change Act, does not have a leg to stand on. It is intended, at massive cost, to be symbolic: To make good David Cameron’s ambition to make his administration “the greenest government ever" … The economy is already recovering from the recession. However, there is indeed a threat to that recovery and the bitter irony is that this is of the Government’s own making. It is its so-called climate change policy of ‘decarbonising’ the British economy."
Even if one looks past the economic arguments against climate change policies, here is the graph that should be nailed to Mr Cameron's wall:
We've published this image before, but the message needs to be repeated: electricity and gas prices outstrip the NHS, unemployment, cuts, crime, and tuition fees, as the issue that most voters are concerned about. 63% are very concerned, and a staggering 87% are concerned overall. It's not hard to see why – hard-pressed families are worried about their shopping bill every week, and already sacrifice economic luxuries like holidays, and it's unreasonable for them to be punished by the government's fuel policies every time they fill up their cars. Mr Cameron must recognise this, and should do something about it.
The Member of Parliament for Harlow, Robert Halfon, wrote last month that the average motorist in his seat is spending £1,700 a year to fill up the family car. That's equivalent to one tenth of the average household budget in the constituency. Mr Halfon has campaigned redoubtably on this, and his e-petition is one of the very top e-petitions in terms of popularity, having received 67,613 signatures so far. The e-petition urges the Coalition to:
"1) Scrap the planned 4p fuel duty increases, which are scheduled for January and August 2012. 2) Create a price stabilisation mechanism that smooths out fluctuations in the pump price. 3) Pressure big oil companies to pass on cheaper oil to motorists. 4) Set up a Commission to look at market competitiveness, and radical ways of cutting fuel taxes in the longer term."
You can sign it here.