The UK will need a system of energy rationing before the end of the decade if it is stop a chaotic and unfair market emerging as energy scarcities increase, MPs have been warned.
A report commissioned by the All Parliamentary Group on Peak Oil, proposes to give every adult a free allocation of energy which would be used when purchasing fuel or electrical energy. People would continue to pay using money but would have to surrender energy units to make their purchase. There would be a minimum energy allocation given to everyone but there would be no upper limit enabling any surplus units to be bought and sold on the open market.
The idea of energy quotas and personal carbon trading has been around for over 15 years but has only recently been seriously considered. A government feasibility report in 2008 said the idea was 'ahead of its time in terms of public acceptability' and needed to bring down its costs - estimated then to be in the region of £700 million to £2 billion to set up and £1-2 billion a year to run.
However, the government may soon be forced to reconsider quotas, says report author Shaun Chamberlin, director of the Lean Economy Connection. 'Without a scheme, the UK will not only fail to achieve the steep emissions reductions promised by the Climate Change Act, but will find itself unprepared for energy scarcities when they arise, and unable to sustain an orderly market. Fuel poverty would rapidly develop, leaving the most vulnerable people in society at risk.'
Chamberlin argues that other proposals such as a carbon tax cannot guarantee a reduction in emissions and also penalise the poorest. He argues that an alternative system of trading energy and reducing quotas would provide a 'common purpose' to reducing overall greenhouse gas emissions.
'If citizens were invited to participate in working out for themselves how to live witin a steeply-declining carbon budget, and given a guarantee of fair and equal access to spare energy; climate and fuel policy alike would move into the real world where deep reductions in fossil-fuel dependancy would become realistic.'
Among the MPs speaking out in favour of the energy quota was Green MP Caroline Lucas, who said quotas would give people a 'direct connection' to the carbon emissions associated with their lifestyle as well as ensuring 'fair shares' of available energy.
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