Published on October 17th, 2013 | by Joshua S Hill0
Survey Shows Massive Public Support For British Green Taxes, But What Do The Public Really Want?
October 17th, 2013 by Joshua S Hill
A poll conducted on behalf of The Mail On Sunday by Survation has found that the public supports the idea of green levies, no matter that those same levies are being blamed for higher energy bills. The survey, released on Sunday, covered a wide ranging list of issues being faced by the UK population, of which questions pertaining to ‘green taxes’ was only a small part.
When asked whether they support or oppose ‘green taxes’ in order to help investment in green energy, nearly 40% of respondents either strongly- or somewhat- supported the taxes, with only 29.3% opposing the taxes to any appreciable degree. 30.9 either didn’t know or neither supported or opposed the taxes, a somewhat disturbing number but one that isn’t overly surprising.
Competing with their support of the taxes is the public’s overpowering belief that the energy companies are using green taxes as a means to artificially hike energy prices. When asked whether respondents believed “energy companies when they say that taxes are the reason for steeper bills,” only 15.3% replied in the affirmative, with over 75% claiming that the energy companies were lying.
The public’s response to balancing between energy development and environmental stewardship was as self-serving as expected, with room for die-hard proponents on both sides. When asked, 22.9% favoured cheaper energy bills over environmental protection, 20.4% favoured the reverse, while 48.4% were all for keeping things just as they are. Asked whether green taxes were a waste of money or not, 38.1% thought they were and 44.6% disagreed, while 45.9% blamed the existence of the green taxes on the previous Labour government, and only 33.1% feeling it was the current coalition government’s fault.
In an October press release, electricity and gas company SSE announced an increase to household electricity and gas tariffs of 8.2%, reflecting the “increasing cost of buying wholesale energy, paying to deliver it to customers’ homes and government-imposed levies collected through energy bills.”
“We’re sorry we have to do this. We’ve done as much as we could to keep prices down, but the reality is that buying wholesale energy in global markets, delivering it to customers’ homes, and government-imposed levies collected through bills – endorsed by all the major parties – all cost more than they did last year,” said Will Morris, SSE Group Managing Director for Retail. “Eighty five per cent of a typical energy bill is made up of costs outside our direct control and these costs have increased. So far this year we have made a loss from supplying energy as a result of the higher costs we have been facing and continue to face. “
Following SSE’s announcement last Thursday, UK Prime Minister David Cameron was forced to come out in defense of the levies.
And as for green levies, and other things like that, they shouldn’t be there for a moment longer than they’re necessary. We need to have a balanced energy policy in this country, we need to have some nuclear power, we need some renewables. So some of those subsidies have been necessary, but as soon as those industries can pay for themselves, or as soon as we’ve got to a reasonable level, those subsidies shouldn’t be there for one moment longer than necessary.
Cameron was also, unsurprisingly, forced to respond to Leader of the Labour Party Ed Miliband’s promise that an incoming Labour government would freeze energy prices for 20 months.
Look, of course it’s very attractive to say, ‘I’m going to freeze energy prices for 20 months,’ as Ed Miliband has done, but it is basically a con. And it’s a con because he is not in control of the worldwide price for gas. And so he can’t guarantee at keeping that promise, because the gas price could go shooting up, in which case he’d have to break his promise, or the gas price could go shooting down, in which case a freeze wouldn’t be as good as what customers would get. So it’s a con.
However, the realities of living in England are more concerning than the possibility of a ‘con’, as Cameron put it, to many Britains. The Guardian, ever the mouthpiece of the Labour Party vote, relatively succinctly portrayed the coalition government’s response to Ed Miliband’s promises.
First they said that a temporary freeze on energy prices was a Marxist conspiracy. Energy minister Greg Barker called it catastrophic, Grant Shapps said it threatened Britain’s security. But Michael Gove said that kind of talk was overblown and should be “taken with a pinch of salt”. David Cameron calls the price freeze a con. But wait a minute – last week he said it “struck a chord”. It all adds up to the political equivalent of Looney Tunes’ Tasmanian Devil, a frenzied whirl of contradictory arguments thrown up in the air by fulminating ministers.
With the British sitting government sweating over how to respond to such a claim, it is interesting to see that following their announcement and David Cameron’s own backing of the subsidies and inherent disagreement with SSE’s view of the situation, analysts are now warning SSE could be at risk of a debt rating downgrade.
“The increased politicisation of UK energy policy could lead the credit rating agencies to take a less positive view on SSE’s credit rating, especially as its credit metrics are already stretched,” said a research note by JP Morgan, according to City A.M. They added that “the broker’s analysis added that the company’s rating is “already borderline”, meaning that there is a “real chance” it could get downgraded.”
With political upheaval ready to shake up Number 10, and public and financial backlash against SSE’s price hike, the current political nature of Britain’s energy market is looking to make great reading over the next few weeks.
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