How Much Energy Price Pain Can You Take?

We are about to find out

J.R. Flaherty
3 min readMar 8, 2022

I heard a story about Larry David when he divorced his climate activist wife. He went home to his mansion in Pasadena and turned on every light in every room out of spite.

I can still laugh about this sketch. Even though I have seen a nose-bleed high rise in our energy bill lately.

Every day I laugh a little less.

Maybe you are like me, always turning off electricity around the house.

Mobile phone chargers. What’s the deal with mobile phone chargers? They drive me insane.

Why do they stay switched on, yet not charge anything like blood-sucking leeches on our walls?

The idea that we are more dependent on electricity to live our lives than ever because of phones and technology makes me want to sit in the dark and start burning our furniture.

The circuit around the flat turning off appliances was always about (1) doing the right thing for the planet, and then (2) energy bill.

Yes, it was a small thing for the climate but these small things add up.

And then there are the big things.

The war in Ukraine, in touching distance from us in Europe. The terror. The nuclear power plants. The threats to turn off the oil and gas.

There are people suffering in this country, and then there are people living in bunkers in Ukraine. I understand my privilege to complain about rising energy prices.

What I have never seen before is the rate of the bill going up so quickly.

My energy bill now eats into half of what we spend on food per month. It’s like a big shark bite into our daily expenses.

In a matter of weeks.

Already we have food banks at the church on the next block here in London. But like the climate change, the shock is too fast for people to adapt.

If I find it a shock to watch the bill jump every day, then there will be lower income people who will truly suffer.

What is happening is not sustainable for most people. So what will happen? Here are some ideas, and I’ve heard politicians mention it over the past few days:

  1. Windfall tax on oil suppliers to support the rising energy costs for workers
  2. Insulation of homes
  3. Step up renewable energy so that there is a smoother transition
  4. Return to shale gas fracking and dirty coal (the least preferred option).
  5. Resume hangings on Primrose Hill (joking!)

But seriously, blockades and protests are not out of the question

These price jumps are dizzying for ordinary workers, let alone those already experiencing privations.

Putin is hugely dependent on oil and it is the only income not sanctioned by banks.

The EU will wean themselves off but it will take longer than the United States. For the US, 7% is Russian oil, 11 % for the UK, and Germany is 30%. Finland depends on 95% Russian gas.

But that does not mean that the US will look at renewables. No, they are sending teams to Venezuela, Saudi Arabia, and unbelievably, Iran–as I type this post.

The EU gives Putin 300 billion euros a day for oil and gas.

The new government in Germany pledged to be net zero by 2035. Could this push the targets forward even more?

All bets are off.

This huge rise could lead to stagflation in the short term. Stagflation is low growth and high prices, which is especially hard for people who rely on petrol and diesel.

This is a sharp way to find alternatives to our hydrocarbon economy. And it took a horrible war, which has its own climate problems. Let alone the terrible loss of life.

According to the BBC, if everyone in Europe turned down their thermostats there could be 10 billion euros less energy needed, which is funding this war. It’s a small but significant action.

We must keep laughing. Dictators hate jokes and laughter. Have you seen that absurd meeting table? Now that’s funny. Even if we have to laugh in the dark.

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