Expanding the Living Wage

Low wages are a significant issue in the UK as  the £6.50 minimum wage is insufficient to cover the basic cost of living for many. This has led to the rise of the Living Wage Foundation (LWF) who try to convince businesses to pay their employees a rate which covers the actual cost of living- a living wage. According to their calculations the living wage across the UK is £7.85 and is highest in london at £9.15. And in fact 23% of the working age population earned less than the living wage in 2013 according to the accounting firm KPMG.

The LWF is doing excellent work convincing businesses to voluntarily increase wages having convinced over 1,000 employers to pay a living wage and consequently benefitting over 35,000 employees. It should be noted though that the benefit is not exclusively for the employee, to quote the Living Wage Foundation website:

An independent study examining the business benefits of implementing a Living Wage policy in London found that more than 80% of employers believe that the Living Wage had enhanced the quality of the work of their staff, while absenteeism had fallen by approximately 25%.

This is fantastic, but imagine if the living wage was legislated. This is not to say that the minimum wage be raised and pegged to the living wage (which would be very difficult to achieve politically). But that instead we incentivised (technical term for pushed) businesses into adopting it semi-voluntarily. This could be achieved almost exclusively through provision of information. Firstly, it should be common knowledge what the living wage is where you live, just as the minimum wage is common knowledge currently. Secondly businesses should be forced to inform consumers whether or not they pay a living wage. This could be achieved with little difficulty, by simply placing a sign near the entrance where we already have no smoking signs. Of course this would not force firms to raise wages, but it would provide bad PR for particularly larger firms. Imagine if even one large corporation- say Costa- decided to pay a living wage. I believe that consumers would boycott the substitutes- such as Starbucks- and consequently the substitutes would be forced to raise wages. This is an ideal outcome of course, but such a domino effect is plausible.

Don’t you think this would look nice as you enter a store? 

The Government also benefits from higher wages as it reduces the amount that it has to pay in tax credits (and other such schemes), indeed in 2010 the Institute for Fiscal Studies concluded that if all Private Sector workers earned at least a living wage the government would be £6 billion richer (though perhaps also more importantly gross earnings would have risen by £12 billion also). This is because low wages are effectively subsidised by the government through schemes like tax credits and so when wages rise government spending falls.

However, it should be noted that not all firms can necessarily afford to pay the living wage. For example, the Institute of Directors suggest that firms would have to make redundancies in order to accommodate for paying the minimum wage. Also an increase in wages increases production costs, which tend to be passed on from the businesses to consumers and so prices likely would rise.

Nevertheless the idea of a living wage is gaining traction and it is allegedly making its way to Mr Milliband’s manifesto. Equally Boris Johnson has been a major proponent of the scheme in London. Hopefully this will become a reality sooner rather than later to improve the lot of those at the bottom of the income ladder.

Sources:

http://www.livingwage.org.uk/what-living-wage

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-29873409

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-20204594

The campaign for a living wage is gathering momentum and increasingly enjoys support from across the political spectrum

-Horan Out

Can They Be Trusted?

I almost wrote this piece when it was revealed that the US Government covered up discovering chemical weapons in Iraq to avoid embarassment. Nevertheless the inevitable can only be delayed, as they say, and a recent article on the ‘suicide note’ sent to MLK has finally given me the push needed write this post.

In simple terms, I feel that Government should not be allowed to decide for itself what it can and cannot keep secret. Whilst undoubtedly there is a case for some matters to be kept under the censor, there should be a heavy burden of proof on the censor to justify this.

The issue is most prominent in America, the worlds greatest superpower. Indeed the fact that the two cases cited earlier were US abuses of secrecy perhaps proves the old adage that power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely. However that is not to say it is an issue exclusively for superpowers, nor exclusively for ‘defense’ organisations. The NHS for example has a rather bad record regarding whistleblowers .

This should not be surprising, after all the internet surely shows us that given anonymity people can act appallingly. This is because the cover of anonymity/secrecy removes the burden of accountability thereby incentivizing immoral, illegal and other unacceptable behaviour which otherwise would be exposed and punished. This is true from the Army to the National Health Service.

Therefore I would suggest the need to apply some measures in order to promote transparency. Primarily, a codified list of what may and may not be censored. This is by no means a simple task; however, the main difficulty lies in deciding who judges whether a ‘state secret’ should be a secret. I would nominate the Supreme Court for this function. Lastly, at the very minimum anything made ‘top secret’ or gagged should have a shelf life short enough that it will come into the public domain soon enough that people can actually be held accountable, perhaps with exceptions in extreme circumstances.

Ultimately it comes down to the question ‘how many secrets should a Government keep?’, in my mind the only answer to that question is ‘as few as possible’.

 

-Horan Out

P.S. for more discussion on state secrets read here

 

The Legitimacy Question

An excellent article from May 2015 (http://may2015.com/ideas/not-a-single-sitting-mp-won-a-majority-of-their-constituency/) points out the fact that no MP in parliament received 50% of the vote from the electorate (all those eligible to vote). This flaw is in my opinion a fundamental issue of first-past-the-post (FPTP) and in my opinion if we want to enhance democratic legitimacy reform is needed.

In 2010, according to a study by the Institute for Public Policy Research, 20.5 million voters voted in ‘safe seat’ constituencies, whilst only 9 million voted in marginals. Whilst it is commendable that those 20.5 million people voted; many would argue that their votes were wasted- or at any rate of less significance. This is because the vast surplus for incumbent parties counts for nought and any vote for a party besides the incumbent stands no chance of flipping the constituency. This leads to voter apathy and consequently lower turnout, after all why vote if it will make no tangible difference?

This is why I would propose an alternative electoral system: the Single Transferable Vote (STV). STV has larger multi-member constituencies where you rank your candidates in order of preference. For each seat a certain quota of the vote is required (typically total vote, divided by number of seats, plus one) if a party has votes surplus to requirement the ballots are recast, and candidates who do not have sufficient votes are eliminated and their votes are recast. This provides voters with considerably more choice and means that they do not need to participate in ‘tactical voting’.

Additionally STV provides an incentive for candidates to make more of an effort to engage with the whole community or at any rate a larger proportion since they cannot rely on winning a seat just through the party loyal as swing voter’s second and third choices do make an impact.

This is not to say the system is perfect, some would argue that it would result in a ‘weaker government’ due to less clear majorities, however this is counterbalanced by the fact that Parliament would be more representative of the will of the people- a good thing surely?

Equally; vast sparsely populated areas such as Scotland would end up with massive constituencies, though this may be a necessary evil given that not one seat changed hands in the 2010 general election in Scotland.

However it is highly unlikely that STV will be implemented in the UK as it simply is not in the interest of the two major parties. Though the Tories are slightly disadvantaged compared to Labour- each Tory MP having on average 3,000 more votes in their constituency. This is peanuts compared to the Liberal Democrats who need roughly 4 times as many votes (120,000 votes compared to roughly 30,000) to win a constituency. This is because Lib Dem support is widespread, unlike Labour and Tory support which is concentrated. Irrespective of whether or not you like the Lib Dems is it right that they gained 11.4% of seats with 23% of the vote?

Nevertheless we can fairly safely say that without a change in political consensus we won’t get a less imperfect electoral system. So how about a reform to the current system?

Perhaps open primaries could provide the answer. Open primaries are elections to select party candidates, in this case specificly the incumbent favourite, which are open to all members of the electorate. Whilst in America this has led to more polarized candidates and tactical voting, in 2010 Totnes selected Sarah Wollaston as the Tory candidate largely due to her experience as a GP. Without question Westminster could benefit from having a few MPs who are not career politicians, who have had outside experience in the real world, who are not seeking to please the whip and gain promotion.

Unlike STV this should be something that the two main parties could agree on. If say each party agreed to hold open primaries in 10 to 20 of its constituencies it would greatly improve legitimacy of those candidates as well as improving the standard of our political discourse in Westminster. Limiting the amount of MPs to a fraction of the total would help ensure party unity and cohesion whilst beginning to address the problem.

So there are two of my ideas on improving the current system, but what do you think?

-Horan Out

P.S. http://www.electoral-reform.org.uk/ the electoral reform society is a great source for information on STV and all other electoral systems for that matter!

Prohibition? Not Again…

Doctor’s of the British Medical Association have voted on a motion to make it their policy to prohibit the consumption of cigarettes for everyone born since 2000. As a libertarian my opinion has been concisely put by Simon Clark of FOREST, who said the proposed legislation was “arbitrary, unenforceable and completely illiberal” however given the drought of blog posts recently I shall indulge myself in a paragraph or two.

WILFFFF

Pictured: a young person (un)fortunate enough to be born the other side of 2000, the last of his kind?***

The first issue with prohibition in general is that it does not succeed in its purpose. You have a good which you think should not be consumed, however invariably there will be demand for the good. Time and time again we see that making something illegal does not stop the demand for a good; so given that this prohibition won’t curtail demand, what effect will it have?

Of course you create a black market for cigarettes, lose tax take etc. though more importantly the effect on the smoker must be considered. Supposing this legislation were enforced it would mean that smokers would face legal repercussions and subsequently (one presumes) forced to pay some sort of fine- or god forbid do time. To my mind there is little doubt that realistically the poorest smokers would be hit the hardest and would suffer unnecessarily. Nevertheless, this would still not be my main qualm with legal prohibition. The loss of tax take, the creation of a black market and the demonization of the poor would be side effects of this poor policy, however the main issue is the fact that the policy would make it harder for smokers to quit. The whole point of the legislation is to prevent smoking, yet by criminalizing smoking smokers are legally demonized which acts as a barrier to quitting, not as an incentive to quit (this is seen again through the prohibition of drugs). Therefore this policy would be ineffectual as there would nevertheless be demand for cigarettes, it would disproportionately effect the poor and would be counter productive in helping people quit smoking.

Furthermore the logic of the legislation is flawed: Tim Crocker-Buque (a champion of the cause) states that 80% of smokers start in their teens due to “immense peer pressure”. Hang on! you say cigarette consumption is already illegal for those in their teens, therefore this would have no effect on 80% of all those who are going to start smoking anyway! What an astute observation dear reader, indeed even with this legislation young smokers would still be able to acquire the cigarettes in a manner no-less-legal than before. This point in particular illustrates how ill-conceived this legislation is.

Nonetheless; though I do think it is right that people should be able to smoke if-they-so-choose, people should still be discouraged, informed and helped if they need to quit. Reasons for smoking are complex and stem from bad social environments and a lack of information. Therefore the most effective way to combat smoking is not to ban cigarettes; it is to provide more information, ensure that in every school there is adequate education and assistance available for those who do become addicts and to ensure that goods like e-cigarettes which help people quit are available in abundance.  Indeed these policies are already being implementedwith great success: over the last 16 years smoking in the 11-15 age group has halved, which surely further demonstrates the lack of need for this policy

In conclusion I would like to make it abundantly clear that though I am a libertarian and therefore am predisposed against such illiberal legislation, the reason that you should oppose it need-not be ideological. Without question this legislation would be almost completely ineffective with regards to actually ending smoking, and furthermore it would have a myriad of awful and unnecessary consequences. Without question we are already on the right path, there is no need for this.

Though in essence “arbitrary, unenforceable and completely illiberal” was perfectly adequate…

-Horan Out

*** Provided by Elliot Hingston, check out his blog http://www.elliot-hingston-photography.co.uk/ fantastic photography just a click away!

In Defence of Joey Barton

Joey Barton; for those of you who don’t know, is a footballer who seemingly causes controversy at every turn. He has had a notorious playing career but that is not the subject of this ‘blog’. Last Thursday on Question Time Mr Barton made an ill-advised analogy that UKIP was the least ugly of four very ugly girls (see here https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FyiW9RIIgDQ). Needless to say this did not sit well with all of the audience and Mr Barton was assured that it would be “all over Twitter” the following day. Whilst I do not necessarily think the comment was appropriate, personally I think that this admittedly sexist comment should not be blown out of proportion* as the political debate can be enriched by the likes of Joey Barton.

url

I say this because currently there is a relatively strong case for there being a ‘participation crisis’ and one of the myriad of reasons for this is that the political class is unrecognizable to most people. When people do chance upon political discussions it is invariably one politician bandying slick rehearsed rhetoric with another politician, disagreeing on everything and clarifying nothing.

This is why having someone like Joey Barton can actually be refreshing, though I would not agree with all of his psephological analysis I would say that it is often just as interesting to hear the opinion of someone who is not necessarily an expert and does not have any particular partisan axe to grind. Of course we do typically hear more ‘common’ views from audience members on QT or in letters pages in newspapers, but rarely are these opinions put on the center stage.

(Of course the extent to which a footballer with millions in the bank actually represents such opinions is debatable)

Though there is an argument to say that you want the people in the know and experts discussing these matters I’m not totally convinced. I think that politics is for everyone and everyone should be heard; Thursdays debate would have been no more interesting had Mr Barton been replaced by another politician and in my opinion the most boring Question Time episodes (applies to all political debate) are those where it is just a panel of politicians toeing the party line.

Yes it was a mistake to make the crude analogy but then again he is not a career politician with an army of Spin Doctors. I think that the debate is enriched by people like Joey Barton and it would be a shame if his faux pas was to have any further effect.

 

-Horan Out

*admittedly this occurred last Thursday and there has hardly been a media frenzy but anyway…

 

Amnesty’s Uncomfortable Discovery

Once you’re done reading this please help stop torture here: http://www.amnesty.org/en/stoptorture

stop

The results of a poll by Amnesty have unearthed some worrying statistics: 36% Brits thought that “torture is sometimes necessary and acceptable to gain information that may protect the public” and almost half thought that there should not be a global ban on torture.

Though I’m not one for censoring the media  I do think that there’s an element of truth in what the Independent called the “24 effect”, this is referring to the glorification of torture in tv programmes including, but not limited to the show 24. However I believe that it is a symptom not a cause of this attitude. It would appear that we in Britain by in large don’t seem to fully understand the implication of torture, how many of us have ever been in a situation where we have had our rights violated? How many of us know someone who has had their nails removed? How many of us have had to endure ‘enhanced interrogation’? I’m not saying that in order to comment on the matter you should experience it, but I do believe that the lack of awareness is a factor in general attitudes, indeed it is alot easier to inflict suffering on others when you haven’t experienced it. This may be why in Russia only a quarter of people were in favour of torture to ‘protect the public’.

For those of you who don’t watch 24, you’re probably more familiar with the ticking time bomb argument. This argument states that “ah well what if  people’s lives at risk and you have no choice but to treat them inhumanely!” well surprisingly enough there is no proof that there has ever been a situation like this. Why? Because we don’t live in the black and white world like 24, real life isn’t scripted so that Jack Bauer knows that they are guilty and he really has to use his my-first-enhanced-interrogation-playset.

For me torture is unacceptable because we all as humans have the right to be treated humanely. Hence we have a Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

However; I know that not everyone shares my opinion, so what if we accept the premise that if we ‘know’ that they are bad then we should have the right to torture them.

Well first of all how in any way is the information you get valid? Torture is as excruciating as… well torture, under such duress you will say anything to make it stop. Therefore the answers you get are hardly liable to be constructive or even useful.

More pertinently, a similar argument is used in favour of the Death Penalty. Well if they are really bad and we know they did it then they deserve to die. Well obviously in America where in some states you can be sentenced to death they have trials. Now a study has show that even where there is proof beyond reasonable doubt that they are guilty, innocents are still executed*. If this is the case when people have a trial, then what is the case for those that are waterboarded by our security agencies?

If you disagree with me on this please ask yourself not whether a bad person should be tortured,

but why an innocent person ever should be.

* http://www.nytimes.com/1985/11/14/us/25-wrongfully-executed-in-us-study-finds.html

-Horan Out

Hurrying Into Trouble

I find myself agreeing with the politicians on Question Time when they all concur: no we should not introduce ‘airport style security’ at schools (in the wake of the stabbing of Ann Maguire in Leeds).

My reasoning is in essence the same as Conor Burns’ (MP on QT), which is that after a tragedy knee-jerk policies are almost invariably a bad idea.

Here are three which have occured in the last few years in the UK

  1. Calls to give police guns whenever there is a brutal police murder- 2012 Manchester Ambush
  2. Calls for the death penalty whenever their is a heinous crime
  3. Calls to reduce liberty to protect freedom- post Lee Rigby Murder

I think we have a responsibility to fight these ill thought reactions, and I think most people are of this school of thought.
Nevertheless it Brings to mind somethig Edmund Burke said:

The only thing necessary for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing

So every time bad policy’s are being offered post crisis you will hear me jump up in opposition, I hope you do too!

Are there any examples that you think are particularly pertinent?

Are there any examples of good post crisis legislation you’d like to inform me of?

Please comment!

 

P.S. If this has been too short for your taste: A more substantial post is on the way!

 

-Horan Out

 

 

What’s Justice?

In America a man convicted of armed robbery was never actually sent to jail and when his 13 year sentence was completed they went to release him, only to realise that he wasn’t in jail after all (full story here http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/americas/the-man-they-forgot-to-lock-up-mike-anderson-was-sentenced-to-13-years-in-jail-but-the-police-never-came-9272465.html).

Currently he is sitting in a cell awaiting a decision on whether or not he should be punished- in my opinion now that he has become a ‘model citizen’ he should be allowed to go free, but this is because of my opinion on how the legal system should work.

The criminal justice system serves 4 purposes: punishing those that have done wrong, rehabilitating them, protecting the innocent and deterring people from committing crime.

Here is a hypotthetical to illustrate the above: someone makes some bad decisions and ends up mugging someone. When they are sent to prison it is done in part as a punishment for their crime, in part to protect innocent citizens from them, in part to deter others from going out and mugging and in part as an effort to rehabilitate the offender.

But what is the right balance? There is an argument for harsh prison sentences, bring back the death penalty, really scare people out of crime.
But in my opinion this is not the way to go about business. We should focus on each offender and try our utmost to remake them into valuable members of our society; locking people away and throwing away the key is not the right answer.

Let us compare the way Norway is treating Anders Breivik and how the United Kingdom is treating the murderers of Drummer Lee Rigby.
Anders Breivik received the maximum 21 year sentence- with the condition of preventive detention, whereas Michael Adebalajo received a whole life tariff and Adebowale has received a minimum sentence of 45 years.

The preventive detention means that if at the end of his sentence Anders Breivik is still considered to be a danger to the public, he will not be released.
This subtle difference is quite important. It means that the offender has a prospect of release, meaning they have an incentive to engage with rehabilitation.
Though in extreme cases such as these it is unlikely that we will see any change in character, it would be wrong to simply give up on these people and allow them to become even more radical.
The killers of Lee Rigby have no reason whatsoever to even attempt to change because of their sentence and they will almost certainly remain staunch Islamists to the end.

When people are sent to prison we should not simply resign to the fact that they are going to come out hardened criminals; even the most despicable criminals such as Breivik have the right to be treated as people. Even if the majority of those people don’t utilise the opportunity some would and therefore it would be worth it.

Maajid Nawaz for example, went into prison a hardline Islamist and now he tries to fight radicalisation before he starts and is civil (sic) enough to be a Lib Dem candidate.

This was without a supportive criminal system; many more will come to contribute society if we let them.

This rehabilitation ethos should be at all levels of the criminal system: the best way to stop people from reoffending is to educate them, not to stick them in a cell. The youngest offenders and ‘non hardened’ criminals in particular should be protected from harsh justice.

To bring this back to the article about the American man (tenuous link I know), he should not face any further punishment because he has demonstrated will to change and become a good person and a contributor to his community. Admittedly in the first place he should have undergone some time in prison, sending him to prison now would serve no purpose besides destroying the life of a good man.

I understand that for some the number one prerogative for justice must be to punish those that do wrong. I believe this viewpoint to be wrong primarily because the punishment can never repay the damage caused. It is far more important that we work with what we have and try to rehabilitate those that have gone wrong in their lives.

Cameron’s Christian Country

I believe we should be more confident about our status as a Christian country, more ambitious about expanding the role of faith-based organisations, and, frankly, more evangelical about a faith that compels us to get out there and make a difference to people’s lives

 

This is just wrong on an awful lot of levels. Lets begin with this being a ‘Christian country’. Admittedly the majority of people on the last census ticked the ‘Christian’ box and we do have Christian heritage, but this is not to say we are a ‘Christian country’. First of all I would point out that the number who declare themselves as ‘Christian’ is on the wane, in 2001 the census showed 71.7 considered themselves to be Christian whilst in the 2011 it was 59.3%. Equally these people are all different forms of Christian, this is best illustrated by a quote from the Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason and science, which addresses the extent of Christianity.

Only 32 per cent of the census “Christians” believe in the resurrection of Jesus. Only 35 per cent could pick out the correct answer to “What is the first book of the New Testament?” when given a 4-way choice of Matthew, Genesis, Acts, Psalms. When asked why they had ticked the Christian box, only 28 per cent of those who did so said it was because they believe the teachings of Christianity. The most popular answer to that question was, “I like to think of myself as a good person.”

full article here
http://www.richarddawkins.net/news_articles/2012/12/12/richard-dawkins-census-shows-that-christianity-in-britain-is-on-the-way-out#

 

So how Christian of a country are we then? Perhaps we should be formally titled ‘tentatively Christian’, no doubt our FB would show us flirting with agnosticism.

Nevertheless I don’t think that this country is not a ‘Christian country’ exclusively because of the fact that most people aren’t Christian in the way that Cameron alludes to. We are also not a Christian country because we are a diverse country. Given that 40% aren’t Christian in any sense, should we not officially be a multi-faith society?
 Also what percentage of the population needs to be Christian (and how Christian need they be) for it to be a Christian Country? Is it a simple majority? Or are areas with greater Muslim or atheist populations not Christian parts of the country. If so do they reserve the right to embrace their non-Christianity?

Furthermore I am disturbed by the use of “we” in the statement. I realize that it is addressed to the Church Times and therefore its presumably Christian readers; however it seems to imply that he’s referring to we, as in him and his government and we as in ‘we the people’. Well Mr. Cameron, I would suggest to you that its not your place to tell me and my secular friends to be more evangelical, and our government certainly shouldn’t be supporting Christianity any more. Why should atheists, Muslims, Buddhists, Jews or any secularists for that matter have to pay a penny of tax for any religious organization?

The issue of state supported religion is at its worst in education. The Church of England being an official, state recognized church is wrong but it is not as wrong as religious schooling. When children are young they are at their most impressionable, in youth you should not be being told by authority figures to believe this, that or the other. School is a place for learning and questioning not dogma. Though from my experience being forced to pray or sing hymns or listen to verse leads many people away from religion- particularly the older they get. School certainly should be secular, kids should learn about religion and philosophy but not what to believe, that is for themselves to decide. More worrying though is the segregation that faith schools cause: Muslim kids go to Muslim schools, Christians to Christian schools etc. etc. this segregation only serves to create fault lines in our society.

I believe that the British people (and all others for that matter) deserve an equivalent of the first amendment. There should be no religious schools, there should not be 26 bishops in the Lords and the Prime Minister certainly should not be promoting Christianity.

A country is not determined by one religion, it is determined by all of its citizens. Luckily we aren’t all in concordance and we are of different philosophical denominations. The only way to be truly religiously plural is to have a secular state.

 

P.S. This is also a cynical effort to win over religious voters, particularly those who were upset by gay marriage and are impressed by UKIP being anti gay marriage.

 

 

-Horan out

Our Energy Crisis

So the IPCC has in essence said to the world “but seriously guys, these carbon emissions are an issue” in their latest 33 page report (for more depth see here http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-27008352).

Given the MO at ghcurrentaffairs, this weeks blog piece is going to be about climate change and the issue of where we get our energy from.
Admittedly I’m not an expert, but then again that doesn’t stop the nay-sayers does it?

 

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Okay so first and foremost I cannot tell you what the temperature is going to be in 5, 25 or 50 years time; however what I do feel confident in saying is that humans clearly have an impact on the environment, and we cannot afford to assume otherwise. We should seek to minimise damage where we can, and protect our planet, after all (I do apologise for the cliche) it is the only one at our disposal.

That being said there is a bare faced conflict of interest here. If we wish to maintain our standard of living we need energy, but the pollution caused by burning fossil fuels is derogatory to both our health (see Hong Kong) and obviously the wider environment.

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Great, well lets cut out oil then! (say some, I realise that you the intelligent reader know it isn’t this simple)

To give an idea of how much energy there is in oil: one barrel of oil contains the equivalent in energy to that produced by 12 people working for a year. The cost of taking it out of the ground? A dollar, maybe 2.
The reason we have a dependency on oil is because it is in essence free energy. As a consequence of its abundance many facets of our life are reliant on oil: the food we eat has been fertilised with hydrocarbon fertilizers; fossil fuels are used for heat, electricity and transport; there’s also the plastic in your toothbrush! (if the latter doesn’t apply, go buy a toothbrush: you disgust me).

 

Though of course the catch with this ‘black gold’ is that we have to get at it. This is especially an issue now that the easiest places to extract oil are drying up, as a consequence we’re having to acquire oil through ever more precarious means. This is why there was the BP oil spill disaster and why we are only now developing fracking further in spite of knowing about it since 1947.
The two biggest dangers are oil spills with regard to deep sea drilling and polluting aquafers with fracking (perhaps earthquakes- I’ll let you be the judge of that http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/americas/fracking-and-earthquakes-scientists-link-rise-in-seismic-activity-in-oklahoma-to-increased-oil-and-gas-exploration-9242411.html?origin=internalSearch).

This is why I’m in favour of an ‘externality’ tax on oil. In my opinion it is something that is exceptionally useful and at the moment a necessity for us to maintain our standard of living; however it is not without its drawbacks. Therefore there should be a proportionate tax relative to the damage it does, this tax should also be used to help develop and subsidise renewable energies.

The report also mentions a move to reduce the use of coal and increase the use of gas. This in particular is why I believe fracking is an incredibly important for meeting our energy needs.
Estimates say we have around 50 years worth (based on current usage) of shale gas ripe for the picking. Admittedly this doesn’t come without some environmental risk, however it gives us energy security for the foreseeable future. This is important not only in helping maintain our standard of living, but also politically. You may have noticed that many of the world’s despots and thugs sit upon stocks of oil- having our own supply of oil will remove our dependence on the likes of Putin and the Saudi’s- a good thing I believe. Moreover, in the short term it helps reduce carbon emissions as we move to more gas based power use, and in the long run if used appropriately it will allow a more seamless transition to green alternatives.

 


Another option I am a fan of is nuclear. It baffles me that so many countries are dismantling/no longer pursuing nuclear energy after the tragic events in Japan- Germany for example went from a world leader to soon being nuclear free.
Admittedly if you are near fault lines/volcanoes/tsunami’s/hurricanes etc. then the nuclear option is not a sensible path for you to pursue. However in Europe, where these are not an issue it is absurd not to utilise nuclear to its fullest. The worst part of nuclear energy is not the power plant itself (though dismantling them is precarious) but the removal of uranium from the ground, from which more have died than any other stage of the nuclear energy process.

 

 

Admittedly the answers I present wont sit well with all of you, fracking is a contentious issue and nuclear energy is no less so. Ultimately though I would say my method is the best bad option.