Conservatives Global: Don’t be duped by fat cat green washers

This article was published by Conservatives Global.

UK supermarket chain Iceland has been forced to reverse a ban on using palm oil as an ingredient in its own-brand products amid an acute shortage of sunflower oil, a staple ingredient in products including frozen chips and breaded fish. The supermarket chain will start selling a limited range of own-label products from June which contain palm oil, after it banned the ingredient in 2018 amid a splash of publicity, supposedly taking a stand against tropical deforestation.

There are countless problems with sweeping decisions to swear off certain products, as Iceland did in 2018, not least the fact that you may have to embarrassingly go back on your promise later, as Iceland has just done. 90 per cent of palm oil exported to Europe is sustainable. Palm oil is more efficient than other products (such as sunflower oil, which Iceland switched to) meaning quitting palm oil is even worse for deforestation. Palm oil itself, despite meeting most of the world’s vegetable oil demand, is responsible for less than four per cent of global deforestation.

This episode has exposed Iceland’s hypocrisy. It claimed it would remove all own-brand products containing palm oil. In reality, it removed the branding, rather than the product itself. Iceland’s lack of transparency actively misled its customers. They boasted at the time that there was no palm oil in their products, which was not true.

In his latest policy change, Iceland’s managing director Richard Walker says the switch back to palm oil will only be a temporary measure. He claims that by using CSPO (certified sustainable palm oil) he will be able to minimise the impact on the environment. That suggests his view has changed since 2018, when Iceland was very clear about its opposition to any and all palm oil. His reasoning is not explained.

The question we should ask of Iceland, then, is whether they would now acknowledge that they should have moved to CSPO earlier if they knew it was an alternative, rather than making adverts criticising palm oil production. That is what they did in 2018, when they put their stamp on a Greenpeace video claiming that orangutans’ natural habitat was being destroyed by palm oil. The ad was then banned for being too political.

Palm oil is the tip of the iceberg of green virtue-signalling and hypocrisy, and Iceland is the perfect example. Walker’s pledge to remove palm oil from Iceland’s products is just one in a long line of unkept promises.

He also promised they would be plastic-free by 2023 but has since admitted that that will not be happening. Last year, Iceland was ranked as the worst supermarket in the UK on plastic, with Greenpeace (despite their apparent friendship with Iceland in 2018) slamming them as not doing enough to cut plastic use. Consumer group Which? ranked Iceland bottom too, this time for sustainability among supermarkets. Iceland was the only supermarket to fail to provide Which? with the relevant data for its own-brand plastic which is recyclable in kerbside collections.

Walker and Iceland would like us to believe they are leading the charge on social and environmental change. Despite that, Walker used a private helicopter to fly to different stores within the UK on 48 separate days, which he claims was necessary in order to be on the front line.

Companies, individuals and governments are so keen to be seen taking action on the environment that they forget about the consequences. They are so eager for their audiences to know how virtuous and tree-hugging they are that they don’t care if their decisions actually harm the planet. If we want to stop deforestation, halt climate change and generally care for our planet more, we must focus on the merits of our policy decisions rather than what others might think of them – the opposite of what Richard Walker does.

City AM: As Iceland rows back on palm oil, this is one slippery slope we should start to embrace

This article was published in City AM.

Supermarket chain Iceland announced this week that it had no choice but to go back on a pledge to avoid using palm oil as an ingredient in its own-brand product range. Managing director Richard Walker wrote in a blog post that Iceland could no longer afford to use sunflower oil, the palm oil alternative it plumped for in 2018, because its price has risen by 1,000 per cent as a result of war in Ukraine.

Ironically, the decision to switch back to palm oil will likely have a positive environmental impact, despite its reputation for assaulting the planet. While palm oil contributes to deforestation, it is the most land-efficient of the vegetable oils. By switching to alternatives like sunflower oil, manufacturers have to chop down lots more trees to produce the same amount of product. Palm oil production yields around 6-10 times more oil per hectare than other oils like sunflower, rapeseed, olive and soybean.

Palm oil’s anti-green reputation falls the moment you compare it to more resource-hungry oils. But the perception persists – except in times of crisis, it seems. Walker warned Iceland would otherwise be unable to offer much of Iceland’s usual product range. “I say this with huge regret,” Walker writes. “But the only alternative to using palm oil under the current circumstances would simply be to clear our freezers and shelves of a wide range of staples including frozen chips and other potato products.”

Now that Iceland has confirmed the current crisis is serious enough for us to dare to use palm oil to make breaded fish and frozen chips, perhaps this is the time for us to reconsider our side-lining of palm oil more broadly – particularly when it comes to fuel.

On palm oil and deforestation: regulators are failing, but so is the market

Along with skyrocketing food prices, perhaps the most impactful aspect of the inflationary and cost-of-living crisis on the average consumer will be fuel prices. Costs at the petrol pump have already soared to record highs, and given the geopolitical and economic situation, that does not look like changing any time soon.

As we try to extract ourselves from under Putin’s thumb and learn to heat our homes without relying on Russian fossil fuels we have talked no end about Saudi oil, solar power, wind power, domestic fracking and nuclear. But almost no one has mentioned biofuels.

There is no good reason why biofuels – such as palm oil – should be left out of the conversation. As of 2020, renewable fuels made up just 5.9 per cent of total road and non-road mobile machinery fuel – but most of that was biodiesel and bioethanol, with palm oil accounting for just 2.8 per cent of total supply as a feedstock.

Despite the obvious benefits of diversifying fuel sources, pressure from the green blob has continually driven regulators in the wrong direction, with Brussels leading the pack. The EU is set to progressively phase out palm oil as a biofuel source altogether by 2030, starting next year. As with Iceland’s sunflower oil switch, it seems likely that palm oil will be replaced by alternative products which are less land-efficient, and therefore contribute to deforestation on a greater scale.

Green virtue-signalling can often be harmless but when entire industries swear themselves off an irreplaceable product like palm oil, prices spike and the consequences for consumers are dire – especially during a crisis – and that’s before regulators get involved. From frozen food to biofuel, there are countless areas where quietly welcoming palm oil back into the fold would go a long way to alleviating the effects of the current crisis. Policy outcomes must overcome over-cautiousness about green PR.

Reaction: Green policies have costs – now is not the time for virtue-signalling on palm oil

This article was published by Reaction.

In 2018, supermarket chain Iceland announced it was removing palm oil as an ingredient from some of its own-brand food items, switching to alternative products like sunflower oil which it claimed are better for the environment. At the time, Iceland was lauded for its eco-consciousness. It even teamed up with Greenpeace to make a Christmas TV advert about how much it loves nature, only for the ad to be pulled for being too political.

Unfortunately for managing director Richard Walker, a lot has changed since then. Inflation skyrocketed and war broke out in Europe, forcing us to brace for the worst drop in living standards in decades. In a humbling but unavoidable U-turn, Walker had to go back on his promise and announce that Iceland will once again use palm oil in its own-brand products.

“The only alternative to using palm oil under the current circumstances would simply be to clear our freezers and shelves of a wide range of staples including frozen chips and other potato products,” he wrote in a blog post.

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine brought to our attention how much we rely on Moscow for our energy, and we will no doubt pay the price of decoupling ourselves from Russian fossil fuel imports at petrol stations and through our utility bills for some time to come. Crucially, war in Ukraine also made us realise how many crops – the likes of wheat, barley, and corn – we import from Russia and Ukraine, leading to widespread fears of worsened food insecurity for millions.

But it was another innocuous product which led to Walker having to backtrack on his promise: sunflower oil. Iceland had been using sunflower oil as a replacement for palm oil in its own-brand products but thanks to the war in Ukraine, its price is up 1,000%.

Why did Iceland want to distance itself from palm oil to begin with? Because of a misguided fear that it is responsible for the destruction of rainforests.

Palm oil does contribute to deforestation – to a great extent, in fact. But that’s only because we use it in practically everything. From food to toiletries, countless manufacturers rely on it because it is the most efficient oil product of its kind. Others, such as sunflower oil, are much less space efficient. You have to cut down a lot more trees to get the same amount of product.

For that reason, switching away from palm oil to other oils as Iceland did in 2018 is actively bad for the environment. It causes more deforestation, not less. Palm oil takes up just 6% of the land used around the world for vegetable oil production, but still manages to provide for 40% of global demand for vegetable oils.

Given that countless companies like Iceland are keen to let us know how eco-conscious they are, moving away from palm oil and towards less green, more environmentally harmful products seems bonkers. The only reason they do so is because they know the palm oil name has been tarnished, with many holding it solely responsible for deforestation.

In other words, it’s a PR move, not an environmental one. The pressure from the green blob is for private actors to be seen to change the way they do things, even if it has no effect on the end result – or, as in this case, actually makes the problem worse.

It should not have taken Russia invading Ukraine and the price of sunflower oil increasing tenfold for Iceland to spot its error and row back on the palm oil boycott.

War in Europe means realism in politics is badly needed. Just a few months ago, world leaders made a bold pledge at COP26 to end deforestation – that plan had already missed its first deadline in February, before war broke out. Naturally, our politicians will want to accelerate the effort.

Ending deforestation is a laudable aim, but not at the expense of people having difficulty putting food on the table. Indeed, the EU is on the verge of banning palm oil imports. But which is worse – delaying the end of deforestation by a few years, or leaving millions of households unable to put food on the table?

Green policies have costs. Food insecurity affects millions in Britain and the cost-of-living crisis will only get worse. Now is not the time for virtue-signalling. Instead, let’s put struggling families first.

Jason Reed is the UK Lead at Young Voices and a political commentator for a wide range of outlets. Follow him on Twitter @JasonReed624 or read more on his website, jason-reed.co.uk.

Yorkshire Post: Why Yorkshire solar farms are false economy when nuclear power can solve energy security crisis

This article was first published in the Yorkshire Post.

SOLAR farms are all the rage. Recent years have seen a major uptick in the number of planning applications submitted to local councils to cover perfectly usable farmland in solar panels.

While climate change is a real and pressing issue, this is a clumsy way of tackling it which will cause a great deal of collateral damage, especially when it comes to food security.

Food prices are rising. Nearly 60 per cent of the British public will feel the pinch and find it significantly more difficult to put food on the table, according to Sue Davies, head of consumer rights and food policy at Which?

More than ever, we must be able to rely on our farming sector to produce as much of the food we need as possible. The more of our farming land we cover with solar panels, the harder that becomes.

As well as the national consequences, this is an issue which affects Yorkshire directly. For example, Harrogate Council has approved a plan for an enormous new 50-hectare solar farm near South Stainley. Its supporters claim it will be able to power up to 15,000 homes.

That might sound like a lot, but when you take the costs into account, its productivity is far too low. At that rate, in order to power all 29 million homes in the UK, we would need to build another 2,000 huge solar farms like the one in Harrogate, covering a total of 100,000 hectares.

This is simply not a viable way to meet Britain’s energy needs.

Too often, local authorities’ desires to get as close as possible to their ambitious net-zero targets results in important concerns not getting the attention they deserve.

As Tim Read put it at a parish meeting about the Harrogate plan: “This development is in the wrong place, of an inappropriate scale and form, and can not comfortably be incorporated into the existing or even enhanced landscape that the applicant has proposed.”

The South Stainley project, run by Elgin Energy, is one of countless similar solar farms at various stages in the planning application process.

At least 17,991 acres of greenfield sites around the country are set to be filled with solar panels under schemes currently in the works.

That is according to the Solar Campaign Alliance, which has emerged from small opposition groups that have popped up across England to oppose solar farms in their local areas. Solar Media, another group, estimates there are around 910 possible solar farm projects in the works in the UK.

The true figure is likely to be higher than the campaigners estimate because not all project details are publicly available. Hampshire alone has seen applications at 28 different sites covering a whopping 3,500 acres since the start of 2020.

One proposed 200-acre solar farm by Enso Energy covers six fields, an area equivalent in size to some 140 football pitches. If planning permission is 
granted for the scheme, it would become the fifth largest solar farm in England, and the largest in England on agricultural land.

Yet, 200 acres is entirely typical of the size of new solar farm planning applications. We are on a slippery slope, propelled by our honourable wish to save the planet but pursuing a misguided path.

Before long, you won’t be able to turn a corner in what used to be the English countryside without seeing an ugly, industrialised solar farm.

Unavoidably, Britain cannot sustain itself on renewable energy and won’t be able to do so for a very long time, no matter how much farmland is taken over by solar panels.

If we want to wean ourselves off fossil fuels, especially Russian oil and gas, we would be much better off investing more in nuclear. The Rolls-Royce mini nuclear reactor is a good start, but it’s nowhere near enough.

Crucially, changing our approach to energy must not come at the cost of the British farming sector. Ukraine and Russia are two of Europe’s biggest crop exporters – the war in Ukraine will only cause food prices to rise even faster. The cost-of-living crisis will worsen, and food insecurity will become an even more critical issue.

Against that backdrop, giving up our farmland to make way for thousands upon thousands of solar panels seems ludicrous. We can still save the planet without punishing British farmers.

Jason Reed is the UK lead at Young Voices and a political commentator. Follow him on Twitter via @JasonReed624.

Contrepoints: Political and economic crises are an argument for a smaller, not bigger, state

This article was published in French on Contrepoints. Below is an English translation of the piece.

Political and economic crises are an argument for a smaller, not bigger, state

According to many, there is an ancient Chinese curse: ‘May you live in interesting times’.

Right now, we are all living through interesting times. Historians concerned with politics, economics and international relations will look back on the early 2020s with great interest. First, we were hit by a novel virus and global pandemic, something which last happened over a century ago. Now, the international political order has taken a big hit thanks to war breaking out in Europe for the first time since 1945.

When Russia invaded Ukraine, it exacerbated a cost of living crisis which was already brewing. Inflation and energy prices were both soaring, even before the war. As a result, many families in western nations like France and the UK are in the appalling position of having to choose between heating their homes and feeding their families, because both energy and food have become so expensive.

Naturally, the political class wants to take these issues onto its own shoulders. Politicians want to be able to stride in during our time of suffering and save us from our strife, lauded for their heroism. While they are no doubt well-intentioned, there are countless problems with using state apparatus to try to solve socio-economic issues like that. Perhaps most importantly of all, it never works.

Those who are in favour of expanding the state through higher taxes and new regulations in an attempt to improve all our lives seem resistant to learning the lessons of recent history. Quite simply, growing the state in this way makes life more difficult and expensive for the rest of us. Time and time again, we learn that a free market approach to policy issues provides the best outcomes for consumers – and yet, without fail, a majority of our politicians insist that they cannot allow the market to do its thing but instead, the government must intervene.

As the energy crisis unfolds with fuel prices rocketing and western governments determined to stop importing oil and gas from Russia, there is a danger that this phenomenon will take place again, on a very large scale. While it is heart-wrenching to see people living on the breadline, struggling to pay their bills and put food on the table, statism is not the answer.

If we want to help people, we must do so in a sustainable way. Growing the state, in this case perhaps by subsidising energy costs or toughening cost caps, will only make the situation worse because while it may provide some brief relief in the immediate future, it will always come a cropper in the longer term. As Margaret Thatcher once said, ‘the problem with socialism is you eventually run out of other people’s money.’

The risk of politicians worsening the current crises with their ill-judged interferences is even more pronounced because it comes so hot on the heels of the Covid crisis. In 2020 and 2021, we saw the normalisation of huge state power. The state was expanded much further than we could have previously imagined in order to deal with the coronavirus emergency, with lockdowns granting politicians a feeling of great power which they have been reluctant to give up.

In the eyes of many on the statist side of the debate, what happened during the Covid pandemic set precedents. The rest of us who believe in the importance of liberty should find that profoundly concerning. There is a perception that enormous state intervention to deal with problems in society has become destigmatised. It is imperative that we do not allow our politicians to begin to feel comfortable with the new levels of power they have assigned themselves.

We are already seeing the ways they are weaponizing the precedents set by Covid responses, especially in lifestyle policy. When it comes to obesity, alcohol, tobacco and gambling, for instance, it is already becoming clear how the political class which fetishizes state interventionism is using public health norms set by Covid to justify myopic new taxes and regulations.

When it comes to energy, lifestyle and countless other policy areas, we are at an important crossroads in policy direction. It is absolutely vital that we do not sit back and allow politicians to become accustomed to this level of power. We must make clear that the powers they enjoyed during the Covid pandemic were the result of a once-in-a-lifetime surprise emergency event, not a new playbook for governing a large western democracy.

Jason Reed is the UK Lead at Young Voices, which has recently launched a pro-liberty project in France. To find out more, email info@young-voices.com or visit lesjeunesvoix.fr

https://www.contrepoints.org/author/jason-reed

Conservatives Global: We burn our fingers by rushing to embrace solar power

This article was first published by Conservatives Global.

Where Western countries get their energy from was already shooting up our list of political priorities in 2022, and war breaking out in eastern Europe has only accelerated that trend. With governments desperate to cut themselves off from Russian oil and gas as quickly as possible, and under pressure to reach their ambitious net-zero targets, the debate around renewable sources of energy such as solar power has never been higher up the political agenda.

And yet, the real-life consequences of what it means to rush into renewables does not get the airtime it deserves. In the UK, we are seeing an epidemic of perfectly usable farmland being handed over to renewable energy companies in order to create enormous ‘solar farms’. If local authorities wave through the planning applications, acres and acres of land are set to be covered in solar panels and the British farming sector will be squeezed tighter than it can bear as a result.

Take, for instance, Hampshire. In that county alone, a whopping 3,500 acres has been the subject of new planning applications for solar farms since the start of 2020, across 28 different sites. One such site, a proposed 200-acre solar farm by Enso Energy in six fields on land near Silchester’s Church Lane Farm and Bramley’s Vyne Lodge Farm in Hampshire, is equivalent to 140 football pitches. If planning permission is granted by the twelve members of Basingstoke and Deane Borough Council’s Development Control Committee, it would become the fifth largest solar farm in England and the largest in England on agricultural land.

We must think very carefully before blindly endorsing a hurried march into solar energy, for various reasons. For a start, the technology simply is not ready yet for Britain to make the switch to renewable energy. The government’s target is to get all of the UK’s energy entirely from renewable sources by 2035 – even that has been widely criticised as wildly over-optimistic.

Even if we assume the UK will hit these 2035 target, that still leaves us with over a decade where we will rely on fossil fuels to heat our homes. The UK is already suffering a huge cost-of-living crisis, with struggling families left in the awful position of having to choose between heating their homes and feeding their children. Against that backdrop, it is a very poor decision to risk artificially making the cost of electricity for households on the breadline even higher still, just so we can have a few more solar panels on British land.

Moreover, before the panels are even installed, there are other enormous environmental problems to keep in mind. For the most part, solar panels are manufactured in China and then shipped to Britain. China has much less regard for reaching net-zero emissions than we do in the West – in fact, they are building more coal mines as we speak, and using that power to produce our solar panels. It is ironic in the extreme that our misguided attempt to be more environmentally friendly in Britain could have a net negative impact on climate change, because we are pouring money into the coffers of the Chinese government, which is then investing in fossil fuels.

Plus, much of the motivation to wean ourselves off oil and gas comes from the need to distance ourselves from Russia because of the way it has conducted itself on the world stage. But is China much better? There is an ongoing genocide of Uyghur Muslims in Xinjiang, basic human rights are being trounced in Hong Kong and threats are made to Taiwan on almost a daily basis. When we consider the long-term geopolitical implications, after decoupling itself from Russia at great cost, is it wise for Britain to then transfer its energy needs to China?

As well-intentioned as the drive to ramp up solar power in Britain might be, it has not been properly thought through and there is a danger that very large solar farms will continue being approved under the radar, with little consideration given to the costs. Instead, it is imperative that Britain thinks carefully about its energy needs and plans for the long term, incorporating renewables only in a sensible and sustainable way.

Politics.co.uk: An epidemic of ‘solar farms’ will only worsen food insecurity

This article was published on Politics.co.uk.

Britain is facing an unusual and under-appreciated epidemic: solar farms. That was the subject of a Westminster Hall debate on Wednesday, opened by Tory MP Brendan Clarke-Smith.

Thousands and thousands of acres of arable farmland across the country are set to be covered in solar panels. Local authorities from Harrogate to Hampshire are being flooded with planning applications as renewable energy companies seek to acquire more and more land to fill with solar panels.

The sheer number of solar farm developments cropping up around the country is quite alarming. There are now 910 possible solar farm projects in the pipeline in the UK, with numbers increasing by about a third in 2021. More than 300 have already submitted planning applications or have already been approved. And that’s a cause for concern.

Take, for example, the case of Bramley and Silchester in Hampshire. Plenty of land there is currently used for food production. It is listed as Grades 1 and 2, officially categorising it as highly productive farmland. And yet, a firm called Enso Energy is pushing for 200 acres across six fields to be converted into yet another enormous solar farm.

The area, encompassing Silchester’s Church Lane Farm and Bramley’s Vyne Lodge Farm, is equivalent to 140 football pitches. If planning permission is granted by the twelve members of Basingstoke and Deane Borough Council’s Development Control Committee, it would become the fifth largest solar farm in England and the largest in England on agricultural land.

Where so often politics has a problem with short-sightedness – focussing on the immediate consequences of a policy, to the detriment of the longer-term implications – in this case, the issue is reversed.

Pushing through solar farms is long-sighted. It envisions a future in which solar power technology has been developed and innovated to such a degree that it has begun to supersede fossil fuels, freeing us from the troubling geopolitics of oil and gas imports and bringing us much closer to net-zero carbon emissions.

That may well be part of our long-term future, but even the most determined renewable energy advocates do not claim we are there yet. Right now, the technology that would be required to create and store enough electricity to power Britain from renewable sources only would be eye-wateringly expensive and logistically impossible.

We must stop acting as if we could switch the National Grid to renewable power sources tomorrow if only we were determined enough. We cannot. However much we might not like it, we will be relying on fossil fuels to keep our homes warm for the foreseeable future. The government’s target is to make the switch to renewable energy sources by 2035 – and even that has been decried by many as wildly over-optimistic.

Why, then, are we voluntarily giving up vast swathes of perfectly usable farmland in the name of solar power? As well as failing to stop climate change, it will worsen food insecurity.

Food prices are heading through the roof anyway. Thanks to a combination of supply chain issues, inflation and the growing cost of gas, prices on supermarket shelves are climbing ever higher. To make things worse, Ukraine and Russia are two of Europe’s biggest crop exporters.

That will, of course, have a significant effect on the price of food in this country, and bring about plenty of production delays and import jams too for basic foodstuffs in Britain. Those new issues caused by the war will come on top of the existing problem of food insecurity and the detrimental effects of the cost-of-living crisis.

More than ever, it is becoming clear that we must have the British farming sector available as a crutch for our food needs. That doesn’t mean becoming entirely self-sufficient and cutting ourselves off from the rest of the world – but it does mean having as much of a safety net as possible, so that war breaking out on the other side of the world does not result in struggling families in this country suddenly being unable to put food on the table.

It is irresponsible that we should be giving up so much of our farmland in the name of a well-intentioned but doomed-to-fail attempt at saving the planet. Solar farms will worsen the food insecurity crisis and nothing more.

1828: Opposing solar farms isn’t Nimbyism – it’s energy realism

This article was published on 1828.

I’m 21 years old. I would like to be able to afford to buy a house one day. So, inevitably, I deplore Nimbyism. As I have written on this site before, the scourge of local councils blocking new developments, leading to house prices continuing to skyrocket, is outrageous, and my generation are suffering the consequences.

Having said all that, there is at least one type of development which local authorities would do very well to resist: solar farms.

There is a new trend of applications for planning permission to convert huge swathes of British farmland into so-called ‘solar farms’. Effectively, perfectly farmable land is set to be covered with thousands and thousands of solar panels.

Some areas are seeing more solar farm planning applications than others, but the phenomenon is widespread across the country. In Hampshire alone – a particularly hard-hit county – there have been no less than 28 different sites subjecting to solar farm applications since the start of 2020, covering a whopping 3,500 acres.

One proposed 200-acre solar farm by Enso Energy across six fields on land near Silchester’s Church Lane Farm and Bramley’s Vyne Lodge Farm in Hampshire is equivalent to 140 football pitches. If planning permission is granted by the twelve members of Basingstoke and Deane Borough Council’s Development Control Committee, it would become the fifth largest solar farm in England and the largest in England on agricultural land.

But it probably wouldn’t hold that record for long, because of the sheer volume of solar farms, many of them enormous, which seem to be in the works around the country. Before long, the UK will be one giant solar panel visible from space.

Renewable energy may be our long-term future, but for now, it is simply not viable. The technology just isn’t there yet. Switching our grid to renewable power sources now would, if it were possible, be ruinously expensive.

At a time when our energy bills are already skyrocketing at an alarming and painful pace, the last thing we need to be doing is switching to even more costly methods of creating and storing power. Instead, let’s allow the technology to innovate behind the scenes and come back to it when it is scalable and ready for use.

In the meantime, it ought to be crystal clear that as much as we might like to turn off the fossil fuels tap tomorrow, we can’t. The choice we face is not between natural gas and renewable energy. Instead, we must choose between Russian gas and British gas. The pressure on the government to get fracking will only grow. It’s common sense.

Nuclear power is also a key part of the answer to our energy woes. The recent long-awaited approval for the Rolls-Royce mini reactor is a good start, but it goes nowhere near far enough. If we are serious about detaching our energy needs from Russia and moving away from fossil fuels altogether, we cannot do it without nuclear.

If our threats against Russia are to be credible – if we want Putin to believe that our economic sanctions and decoupling from Russian exports is our long-term plan, not just a flash in the pan – then we must be serious and realistic about our energy needs.

Even solar power’s most ardent proponents cannot credibly argue that it is the solution to keeping our homes warm any time in the foreseeable future. Let’s stop giving up acres and acres of our farmland chasing a pipe dream.

Spiked: How the EU’s green policies will push up food prices

This article was published by Spiked.

At COP26 last November, world leaders promised to put an end to deforestation by 2030. Around the same time, the EU unveiled a new draft law which would ban food imports ‘linked to deforestation’, much to the horror of the agriculture industry. The proposals are currently being considered by European ministers.

The EU’s approach focuses on palm oil, the production of which is responsible for a huge amount of deforestation. But here’s the problem. Palm oil is currently indispensable. It is used to make countless everyday essentials, ranging from detergent to all kinds of food products.

As we all become more conscious of the damaging impact we have on the natural environment, public pressure has increased on palm-oil producers. Recent surveys show that Brits see it as much more harmful to the environment than other vegetable-oil alternatives, such as soybean, sunflower, rapeseed and olive.

This negative view of palm oil is already having an effect on the market. In the private sector, many outlets are going out of their way to avoid it, loudly signalling to their customers which of their products are palm oil-free. For instance, grocery delivery service Ocado boasts about and promotes its growing range of products which don’t use palm oil.

Since palm oil contributes to deforestation, and is now viewed negatively by the public, this regulatory attack by the EU was perhaps inevitable. It seems likely that more nations will now follow the EU’s lead in introducing new bans, tariffs and other disincentives to curb palm-oil production and use.

But these myopic bans will not solve anything. In fact, they will likely exacerbate the problem of deforestation. After all, compared to the alternatives, palm oil is in fact a remarkably space-efficient product. It occupies just six per cent of the land used for vegetable-oil production around the world, and yet it meets 40 per cent of the world’s vegetable-oil demand.

That makes it a much more environmentally friendly product than the alternative vegetable oils. There’s science to back this up, too. One recent research paper showed that restrictions on palm oil, of the kind favoured by the EU, have little to no effect on deforestation or emissions.

At COP26 last November, world leaders promised to put an end to deforestation by 2030. Around the same time, the EU unveiled a new draft law which would ban food imports ‘linked to deforestation’, much to the horror of the agriculture industry. The proposals are currently being considered by European ministers.

The EU’s approach focuses on palm oil, the production of which is responsible for a huge amount of deforestation. But here’s the problem. Palm oil is currently indispensable. It is used to make countless everyday essentials, ranging from detergent to all kinds of food products.

As we all become more conscious of the damaging impact we have on the natural environment, public pressure has increased on palm-oil producers. Recent surveys show that Brits see it as much more harmful to the environment than other vegetable-oil alternatives, such as soybean, sunflower, rapeseed and olive.

This negative view of palm oil is already having an effect on the market. In the private sector, many outlets are going out of their way to avoid it, loudly signalling to their customers which of their products are palm oil-free. For instance, grocery delivery service Ocado boasts about and promotes its growing range of products which don’t use palm oil.

Since palm oil contributes to deforestation, and is now viewed negatively by the public, this regulatory attack by the EU was perhaps inevitable. It seems likely that more nations will now follow the EU’s lead in introducing new bans, tariffs and other disincentives to curb palm-oil production and use.

But these myopic bans will not solve anything. In fact, they will likely exacerbate the problem of deforestation. After all, compared to the alternatives, palm oil is in fact a remarkably space-efficient product. It occupies just six per cent of the land used for vegetable-oil production around the world, and yet it meets 40 per cent of the world’s vegetable-oil demand.

That makes it a much more environmentally friendly product than the alternative vegetable oils. There’s science to back this up, too. One recent research paper showed that restrictions on palm oil, of the kind favoured by the EU, have little to no effect on deforestation or emissions.

Instead, all this new legislation will do is make food more expensive, which will deepen the cost-of-living crisis. Prices are already soaring thanks to inflation and the growing energy crisis, and given how much food Ukraine and Russia export, prices will only continue to grow. The last thing we need is for our shopping bills to be pushed higher still by short-sighted eco-laws forcing food producers to avoid palm oil and switch to other products – which are both more expensive and worse for the environment.

In order to solve the issue of deforestation without exacerbating the cost-of-living crisis, we must lean into innovation in palm oil. For example, there are alternative varieties of palm oil which are designed to minimise the impact of its production on the environment. At the moment, however, these are far more expensive than cheaper, more environmentally damaging palm-oil products.

We will not make any meaningful progress in the fight against deforestation until both regulators and private industries are able to put aside their environmental virtue-signalling. We should be investing in more sustainable palm oil, not banning palm oil altogether.

A ban on palm oil would do nothing to stop deforestation, but it would deepen the cost-of-living crisis.

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Read the full article on the Volteface website