My Cynicism In Action

While innocently reading the paper I was assaulted by Richard Branson spreading fear, panic and alarm about peak oil. Apparently he has assembled an elite team of business leaders to form a be-suited version of Captain Planet’s Planeteers going under the bewitching name of the UK Industry Taskforce on Peak Oil and Energy Security, a name so dull and unweildy even the acronym – UKITPOES – is both too long and in no way amusing.

But, I hear you not being bothered to ask, what incredible plan do they have to save the world? I have bravely perused their epic tome just to save you the effort After stripping out the fluff about ‘preparation for peak oil” and apparently well meaning but very vague statements like ‘mitigating the impact on the disadvantages’ it boils down to;

  • Invest in Public Transport
  • Rail Electrification
  • Promote Electrical and Non-Oil Cars
  • ‘Stable and pro-investment’ Attitude

The last one sounds vague but is fairly simple,  essentially it’s large tax breaks for anyone doing anything slightly green, cutting ‘red tape’ (i.e. any restrictions at all) around planning applications for no-carbon sites (i.e, nuclear power stations,  wind farms and electrified railway) and lots and lots of regulations to force new greener technology.

However the other three sound reasonable don’t they? OK so ‘Forcing a modal shift to public transport’ does sound ominous, particularly with talk of incentives to shift, sounds alot like road pricing and more vicious taxes on cars but the rest is surely common sense? I mean it can just be  special interest pleading asking for buckets of public money can it? Well lets look at the make up of the group;

  • Virgin – As in Virgin Trains. I genuinely can’t see how they’d benefit from a ‘forced modal shift’ to public transport or from large government investment in the same.
  • Arup – One of the High Speed 1 (Channel Tunnel Rail Link) team they’ve been hawking High Speed 2 and the Heathrow Hub around since before it was called High Speed 2. No benefit for them from this clearly.
  • Foster + Partners – High Speed Rail station designers to the stars. Or at least the Saudis. And the Italians.  Not to mention the Jubilee Line Extension, Bilbao Metro, Singapore Metro and dozens others. Ohh and they worked on that slightly ludicrous  ‘New Routemaster’ project. Still I happen to know that Norman Foster actively hates all the money he earns from designing new public transport stations. Fact.
  • Scottish and Southern Energy – How on earth could an electricity company possibly benefit from electrical cars, electric railways, high energy prices and lax planning laws?
  • Solar Century – Large tax breaks for non-oil power? No I’m sure that, as a maker of photovoltaics, their interest in that is entirely altruistic.
  • Stagecoach Group – Yes they do operate lots of public transport but I can see no connection between that and this groups recommendations. That nice Brian Souter has never paid vast sums to influence policy. OK he did bribe the SNP with £500,000 to change their policy on bus regulation in his favour, but I’m sure he wouldn’t try that trick again.

Call my cynical if you will, but I do wonder if the group is not perhaps a little biased and perhaps their suggestions are not always as independent as they make out. Maybe it’s just me though.

Ohh and peak oil in the next couple of years? Load of tosh, we’ve had ‘only’ 40 years of oil left for decades.


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