I thought we had gone down the old free energy route – the subsidy free boiler thing. But that wasn’t actually free energy – in fact, it was a subsidy. I didn’t actually go on universal income but I did get a discount on a boiler to pay for a private hire at my local council’s expense.
The first big issue in the UK for a socialist to argue against is our energy market. How do you pay for a universal heating system? There are a variety of different ways in which electricity, gas or oil can be bought and transported around the country and used to produce heat. The cheapest form of heat is coal. Coal is often produced by vast new mines. This causes an enormous amount of pollution in the atmosphere which we all emit into the environment. The cheapest form of electricity can be generated by coal or oil. Some of the fossil fuels that we have at our disposal are much cheaper than coal when there is sufficient energy to be extracted in a particular area. You also have to get all the fossil fuels to be taken out of the ground then to be extracted again. The main problem is that a lot of fossil fuels go to waste during the whole process and have to be burned for a range of different purposes in huge furnaces. Coal is very good for making steel and it was made into steel in many countries, particularly in the 19th century. For a number of reasons, the vast majority of coal used for steel production had to be converted into highly toxic substances which were then used as raw materials for many industrial processes.
So there is not nearly enough low cost coal, and it takes decades to break down. So you have to rely on the expensive stuff to cover the cost of making steel. This also means that the market is extremely limited. Coal, for a very simple reason, costs a lot as a raw material, and the prices are so unpredictable that it really is only in very high-polluting countries where the coal used for steel production is a commodity worth buying. So if you want to take away coal from the country where steel production takes place so that a higher percentage of it is used for heating, that is not free. This is true for all the major energy technologies. That doesn’t take into consideration how much electricity will be consumed and the cost of transportation and other elements of the economy.
How does your view differ from that for those who advocate a low-carbon energy system and a carbon tax?
I believe that we should be aiming to reduce carbon
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