climate change equality peak oil politics

Parliamentary report: Fuel rationing may be necessary by 2020

This morning the All Party Parliamentary Group on Peak Oil are launching their new report, with a warning that Britain needs to prepare for a future of constrained energy supplies. The report outlines a strategy for dealing with energy shortages, through Tradeable Energy Quotas (TEQs). I wasn’t able to make the launch, but I have been browsing an advance copy of the report. It re-opens a debate that has been around for over a decade – is rationing the best way to deal with peak oil?

TEQs were first developed in 1996, and have been discussed by parliament before. They are the brainchild of the eccentric and brilliant David Fleming, who sadly died about six weeks ago. This report was obviously completed beforehand, and outlines the rationale behind TEQs again.

Tradeable Energy Quotas are a strategy for gradually reducing energy use and cutting carbon emissions. It is done by putting a cap on the total amount of energy that the country would use and then reducing it year on year, creating a kind of energy staircase. Every citizen would have an equal right to use energy and emit carbon, and would spend the allocation with a digital swipe card when buying petrol or paying a household bill. Those who use more than their quota would have to buy extra rights from those who haven’t used their full allotment.

Around 40% of the energy cap would be distributed to individuals. The rest would traded. Businesses would buy emissions rights at auction in the same way that treasury bonds are sold each week. The revenue from selling the emissions rights would then pay for energy efficiency measures and the transition to a low carbon economy.

The advantage of TEQs is that everyone gets an equal entitlement to energy. It is an equitable approach to the problem of dwindling resources and rising carbon emissions. “What I like about TEQs is the fairness of it” says Jeremy Leggett, chairman of Solarcentury, who was speaking at this morning’s event. “When the energy crunch hits us, government and industry must ensure equitable access to available energy within a national budget. TEQs is the kind of approach we will need if we are to mobilise the infrastructure of a zero-carbon future fast, under pressure. It would increase the chances of working our way through the grim times to renaissance-through-resilience.”

Whether the government is listening or not remains to be seen. Its record on peak oil isn’t good, but the 20-strong all-party group on peak oil is a positive step. It even includes Luton MP Kelvin Hopkins, I’m pleased to see. You can visit their website here.

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