Analysis | Nanny State Fears Are Pointless in an Energy Crisis – The Washington Post

by | Oct 12, 2022 | Energy

Comment on this storyCommentGift ArticleWhen Covid-19 spread, Britons got used to regular government messaging such as “hands, face, space.” But as the pandemic wore on (and on), a backlash against the briefings and ever-evolving rules took hold. Britain has long responded to public information campaigns, but people wanted more freedom to decide which risks to take.UK Prime Minister Liz Truss rode that wave to power this summer. She railed against handouts and the “nanny state.” Take back control, that Brexit message, became something more like “give back control.” It helped make her point when this summer’s heat wave hit and the government offered such helpful messaging as “stay out of the heat” and “find somewhere else that is cool.” Cue eyerolls.Problem is, Truss has leaned so far into her ideological aversion to interventionism that the government risks failing households as the winter energy crisis hits. It reportedly scrapped a £15 million ($16.7 million) plan to provide energy-saving advice to consumers. “We’re not a nanny-state government,” said UK climate minister Graham Stuart. The latest approach seems to be to beef up the fairly unhelpful “help for households” website, which largely summarizes available support.   AdvertisementContrast this with the European approach. Like the UK, EU countries have put in place substantial support for consumers and businesses to cushion the blow of rising energy costs. But unlike the UK, Europe is going all in for demand management. The EU has a voluntary target to cut gas consumption by 15% and the European Commission set a goal of 10% reduction in electricity consumption until the end of March 2023. Many EU countries have large public campaigns to drive down demand, informing consumers on how best to save energy and building support for small sacrifices that add up to big savings. That approach fits squarely with the literature on how to achieve energy savings in a hurry, says Yael Parag, vice dean of the School of Sustainability at Reichman University in Israel. “To be honest, I don’t understand the rationale behind not giving advice to people. If anything, we should have more of this targeted information rather than less of it. It raises awareness and gives people practical advice on how to manage their usage.” It can also be tailored so that vulnerable parts of the population — the elderly, for example — don’t take unnecessary risks.Chile did just that when it experienced an electricity shortfall brought on by a drought in 2007-2008. The government offered financial support for the most vulnerable part of the population along with a host of measures to reduce demand. Similarly, after an avalanche severed hydroelectric power supply in Juneau, Alaska in 2008, the government launched a “Juneau unplugged” campaign that emphasized how conserving electricity was part of being a good citizen.AdvertisementParag recalls that when sabotage took out a natural gas pipeline from Egypt in 2012, Israeli radio carried broadcasts urgi …

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