At present gas prices are going up by 13.6%
in Britain. They’re rising by just 2% in the Netherlands. Prices are 25% higher
here than on the continent. By the end of the year household bills will be
£1,323 a year. This is twice as high as when Labour was elected in 1997. Some
estimate household bills could hit £1,500 next winter.
Energy output is dominated by the big six
suppliers: British Gas, NPower, E.on, Scottish Power, Scottish and Southern and
EDF. Four of these are foreign owned. They say they compete. Allen Asher, chief
executive of Energywatch replies that competition is a myth. They engage in
“tacit collusion” and make up “a comfortable oligopoly” keeping prices high, he
alleged to a House of Commons Committee. National Energy Action added that
customers were being treated as “cash cows.” They are right. There would only
be £30 a year difference in your bills, whichever supplier you chose.
National Energy Action pointed out that
regulator Ofgem was “unacceptably sanguine at this clear distortion of the
market.” So is the government. The big six are robber barons. By their greed they
have put 4.5 million people in this country into fuel poverty, defined as
spending more than 10% of your disposable income on heating bills. So what is
the government doing? They are talking to the robber barons! Not surprisingly,
this has not helped the fuel poor, or the rest of us who are being ripped off.
What has been happening is this. Foreign
energy companies have been buying UK North Sea gas in the summer when prices
are lower and then storing it. Germany has 99 days’ storage facilities, France
122 days’ and Britain just 13 days. So ‘British’ energy companies (remember, 4
out of 6 are foreign owned) have to go cap in hand to the Continent for energy
supplies in the winter when demand is highest. The big six supply to
households, they don’t generate their own energy. Quite naturally the foreign
companies shaft them, refusing to sell at the low prices in their home markets,
so the big six in turn shaft British consumers, whom they regard as ‘cash
Meanwhile British energy-using firms are
complaining that they can’t compete with continental rivals because they pay so
much more for fuel. The British government is supinely waiting the energy firms
in Europe to ‘liberalise,’ like waiting for tigers to become vegetarian. Why on
earth should they do that when the New Labour has been so stupid as to put
British consumers, and the whole British economy, at their mercy?
It is blindingly obvious what should be
done. The useless British oligopoly energy firms should be nationalised, the
government should set up a state monopoly energy company and start building
storage facilities, so ‘British’ North Sea gas can’t be used as a way of
robbing British consumers. Then we can all have a warm home at an affordable
price. What’s the problem?