Steve Cooke

measuring the boundaries of our nation by the sun


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Reducing energy bills: why cutting green taxes & freezing energy bills are bad ideas

WindmillConservative and Labour policies on reducing energy bills are short-sighted and self-defeating.

Green taxes make up roughly 9% of the cost of energy bills. Wholesale prices that the energy suppliers pay for gas and electricity comprise 47%. A large part of the price rises we’ve seen in our bills has been because the UK is running out of its own gas and has increasingly had to import it. As a result, gas prices have risen 240% over the last 10 years. 20% of our energy bills also comes from network costs – the cost of upgrading, maintaining, and supplying our energy, partly to cope with diversified energy supplies.

The Conservatives are making lots of noise about lowering energy bills by scrapping green taxes. A consequence of this policy is that the development of alternatives to fossil fuels (you know, the very thing that’s responsible for 47% of our bills) will be slowed. Wouldn’t it make more sense to work on reducing the cost of energy supply? Wouldn’t the best the way to do that be to reduce our reliance upon diminishing supplies of a finite resource that we are forced to import? The Tory plan leaves us more reliant upon fossil fuels and so sees our bills rise in the long term. Also, our planet gets screwed in the process.

Meanwhile, Labour’s policy is to freeze energy bills for 20 months in 2015 also looks like a terrible idea. The big six energy companies are currently making around 7% profit. Labour’s policy will see energy companies hiking their prices up just before a price freeze, and again straight away after it. Meanwhile, because wholesale costs will continue to rise in the freeze period, energy companies will find their margins narrowing. The big six companies will likely be able to ride out those cost increases, but smaller companies will struggle. The likely outcome is that improvements to our networks will be stalled and that the big companies will come out with a bigger monopoly on supply. That means green energy production is stalled and there’s less competition in the market. Once again, the consumer and planet get screwed.

The solution to rising energy bills is to reduce consumption and reduce reliance upon fossil fuels. It is not to scrap green taxes and freeze energy bills. Each of these solutions is self-defeating and merely shifts problems onto the following government (perhaps this is why the two big parties are keen on them).


For the figures used in this post see:

http://www.theccc.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2012/12/1672_CCC_Energy-Bills_bookmarked.pdf

http://www.carbonbrief.org/blog/2013/10/wholesale-energy-and-the-network-grid-the-parts-of-our-energy-bill-politicians-cant-control/

http://fullfact.org/factchecks/energy_generation_profits-29248


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Getting the most out of Google for academic research

Many students (and academics) waste time and get frustrated because they aren’t using search engines like Google as well as they could. In a previous life I worked for many years as a web developer and lecturer in web design, so I’ve learned a few tricks when it comes to researching on the web. Rather than keep them all to myself, I’ve created a little online guide to help you find what you need quicker and easier. The link below will teach you how to access some powerful features of Google and get the most out of search engines for your research.

search-icon-mdHappy Googling!


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Animal Rights and Environmental Terrorism

My paper ‘Animal Rights and Environmental Terrorism’ just been published in the Journal of Terrorism Research. In the paper, I argue that not only are many paradigmatic, putative acts of animal rights and environmental terrorism such as illegal animal liberation and tree-spiking not terrorism at all, but also that even those that are terrorism may justified nevertheless (or at least are not straightforwardly wrongful). In the paper, I also lay out a taxonomy of animal rights/environmental direct action, separating acts into civil disobedience, rescue acts, sabotage, and terrorism.

The Journal is Open Access and operates with a Creative Commons licence, so there’s no pay-wall to negotiate. Link: http://ojs.st-andrews.ac.uk/index.php/jtr/article/view/532

The paper was written while I was employed as the Society for Applied Philosophy‘s 30th Anniversary Research Fellow, so thanks are due to them for funding my research.