The United States has experienced extremely cold temperatures and unusual spring snowfall, but it has been even worse in the United Kingdom. Sub-freezing temperatures combined with brutal winds and paralyzing snow have turned the British countryside into a frigid landscape resembling a scene characteristic of the bitter depths of winter. This is a far cry from being “a very rare and exciting event” where “children just aren’t going to know what snow is”, as predicted in 2000 by Dr. David Viner, a senior research scientist at the Climatic Research Unit of the University of East Anglia in the UK.
Now, in addition to impassible roads and widespread power outages, the UK faces a cold reminder of its misguided energy policies and a reliance on failed predictions as it suffers from a chronic energy shortage. Compared to hot weather, cold weather causes greater economic damage, such as power outages, roof collapses, and contributes to a higher number of weather-related fatalities.
According to Reuters, the UK has depleted around 90 percent of its natural gas reserves. In order to meet the dearth in supply, several tankers carrying LNG (Liquefied Natural Gas) have been diverted from Qatar and Trinidad to the UK. But even this might not be enough to replenish the country’s natural gas reserves.
While the UK was once a model of industrialization, the country has fallen on proverbial hard times in the postwar era. For several decades, the UK has failed to invest in fossil fuel power generation and improved storage capacity.
Over the past few decades, the UK has engaged in a drastic reduction of its coal facilities. In 1913, there were over three thousand deep coal mines in the UK. As of 2011, there are only twelve.
Two areas of potential energy production in the UK are nuclear and shale gas. At the moment, however, the UK also has an aging nuclear industry which will require replacement in the near future, and politicians been reluctant to harness the potential energy found within the shale reserves Britain.
Meanwhile, energy consumption has continued to climb, resulting in increasing demand of natural gas to fill in the gap in production, a task which has become increasingly tenuous this year because of rising heating needs due to the bitter cold temperatures.
So far, recent government actions suggest the long-term situation is unlikely to improve. In 2008, the UK Parliament passed the Climate Change Act, which forces an 80 percent reduction in CO2 emissions from 1990 levels by 2050.
As if things couldn’t be worse, the UK has also enacted a Carbon Tax, which will be implemented on April 1st. Perhaps the final nail in the coal industry’s coffin, the tax will impose a cost of sixteen British pounds per metric ton of CO2, and increase to twenty pounds per ton in 2020.
Instead of warming temperatures and rising seas, the UK should be more worried about rising energy costs as it rejects the innovations that led to its industrial supremacy in 20th and 19th centuries. With the current policies in place, the birthplace of the industrial revolution will continue to experience industrial and economic decline, drifting further away from its place as a world leader.