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rationing returns to Britain?

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Yesterday was a very significant day in the history of Britain, of our island race, because yesterday a report was issued by the All Parliamentary Group on Peak Oil and Gas  – TEQs: A Policy Framework for Peak Oil and Climate Change – which contains an idea whose time has come, an idea which will take us safely into the future if we only welcome that idea and embrace it now. That idea is: energy rationing. To prevent the threat of runaway climate change, Britain has already made a statutory commitment  to reduce its carbon emissions by 80% by 2050. That can only be achieved by drastically reducing the amount of energy consumed from fossil fuels every year until 2050. But well before then the amount of fossil fuels available to consume will drastically fall anyway, primarily because of the arrival of peak oil. So the need for fossil fuel energy consumption to decline will be accelerated by the increasing lack of availability of fossil fuels to consume. And the only way to manage such a decline in a controlled way is through the equitable method of rationing –  yes, rationing! And that is something Britain knows all about. Within the living memory of my parent’s generation, rationing has an iconic status as part of the reason why Britain not only survived the dark days of the Second World War but forged the shared sense of  “let us go forward together” that enabled Britain to go on to ultimate victory. Rationing was readily accepted by the British people as a natural expression of the deeply ingrained sense of ‘fair play’ embedded in the nation’s self-identity, and enabled the British people to accept the high degree of centralised control by an all-powerful state that was essential to the war effort; if the state was willing to administer the burden of rationing in an openly fair and just manner, for the benefit of all, then the state was deserving of popular support in return. And the system of Tradable Energy Quotas (TEQs) outlined in the report is the fair and equitable system of energy rationing that is so clearly necessary to manage the energy crunch about to hit Britain very soon.

That this system of energy rationing has already been so carefully worked out, and could so easily be implemented and managed using the wonders of our modern computer technology, is enormously reassuring, because energy rationing is clearly inevitable, and I am optimistic that the British people, with its history of accepting rationing, would demand it soon enough when the need for it becomes blindingly obvious to all. I grew up hearing from my parents the stories of how they managed with rationing, not only during the war but during the post-war austerity that followed. I would marvel, or wince, at how they managed with such small amounts of food each week, and they would talk about how hard it was to ‘mend and make do’, but there was also an unmistakable pride in their voices as they related their stories, pride in the fact that they managed, that rationing worked, that community spirit was enhanced by rationing rather than eroded by it, and that one could still enjoy life even under the strictures of rationing. That kind of pride is what will come back, I’m sure, as Britain faces a new kind of Blitz from the armada of climate change and peak oil events arriving on our shores.

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