It is nearly half a century since the UK had a real, full-blown energy crisis, as the soaraway oil price gave us power blackouts and the misery of the three-day week. Much has changed since 1974, but it seems we now have to learn the importance of energy security all over again. This time it’s the price of natural gas that has triggered the crisis and, like last time, all ways out are long and hard. Just as Edward Heath called an election then to ask “Who’s running the country?” and received the answer: “Not you any more”, the consequences for the current government could be particularly painful.
As always with energy, the numbers are very large. The full cost of “socialising” the coming rise in domestic fuel prices is around £20bn. For comparison, the cost of the much-hyped boost to the NHS is set at £12bn.