All will know me not to be one for holding back. I say it as it is across many topics. I examine issues with the odd mix of experiences and training that I’ve had across too many decades. To have a degree in Zoology and Comparative Physiology and then to become a Chartered Accountant is indeed slightly peculiar but allows me to look at scientific issues with the cool head of cost and plausibility.
This is why I’ve become so involved with the analysis of the Net Zero project and my concerns that we won’t improve technology or encourage the public by simply banning things. Great products sell themselves. I always give the example of a smartphone. We didn’t need to ban the Motorola or Nokia to encourage us to buy the new generation of phone that nearly all of us now use – we bought them because they had functions we wanted at the right price. We made a consumer choice on the back of technological advances that capitalism is singularly good at creating. You’d have to be of a certain age to remember the East Germany produced Trabant car, the supposed pinnacle of small car engineering across the old Eastern Bloc. State direction of production rarely ends well. This is at the heart of my concerns about the nudges and bans proposed on the route to Net Zero. Technology will lead the way with consumer products we want at a price we can afford.
I am therefore pleased to be part of the common sense victory to allow the sale of new petrol and diesel cars beyond the proposed 2030 date for them to be banned now pushed out to 2035. Most of our friends and competitors around the world from the EU to Australia and many US States are on the 2035 date, so what is proposed, merely to align with an international norm is hardly revolutionary. Similarly with gas and oil-fired boilers. Doubtless heat pumps will improve, perhaps, but unlikely, hydrogen boilers will prevail, or if scaled up nuclear ambitions can be realised, pure electric heating might be the simplest way forwards.
Investment is being made into Carbon Capture and Storage; if this is achievable at scale and moderate cost then the existing way we live can remain unchanged for a long time yet until the fossil fuels run out. No-one doubts the end point, if not because of the finite amount of fossil fuels within the earth, that we will need to evolve to a new source of power. I have been putting my points about how and the time-frame.
These national issues translate entirely into how we all live in the South Thanet Constituency. It’s why I take an interest in these things.
I am seemingly at odds with the new Thanet District Council leadership about ferries and the Port of Ramsgate. I hope that after all these years, the fits and starts, promises and dreams, that indeed a ferry can be found. Of course I do. We’ve been waiting ten years since the expensive failure of TransEuropa ferries in 2013. Dover has new capacity; older, smaller ships have been taken out of service on the basis of economies of larger vessels – carrying more for little increase in fuel use, and the obvious savings in numbers of crew across fewer bigger ships rather than a larger number of smaller ones. But what do I know?
A fellow MP, a senior Minister, wants to replicate what we’ve been doing on the Ramsgate Regeneration Appliance over these past years – bringing together local groups, engaging the public, liaising with potential external investors and bringing a common sense reality check to plans.
I can hardly bring my regular article to a close without expressing my great joy that a further legal impediment to Manston’s aviation future fell away last week with the High Court’s refusal of a limited judicial review application by local campaigners.
I’ll say it again, RSP’s Manston proposals come at no cost to the national or local taxpayer, it will achieve success or otherwise on the strength of its business plan and ability to attract new customers. Levelling Up Fund grants, of which the £20m received from central government can do so much for Ramsgate and other grant funds for the rest of Thanet (now totalling £50m) are great news but to have private investment of many hundreds of millions from entrepreneurial investors is to be doubly celebrated.
A great week for Thanet and East Kent, and my thanks to RSP Strategic Partners for seeing it through when others may have folded and walked away to other jurisdictions which welcome investment more warmly. We need a revolution of our planning and judicial system else we will simply be left behind internationally with a big negative tick in the UK plc box saying ‘don’t bother, it’s just too hard to get things done’.