First the good news: UK households will each receive £200 in October to help with the spiralling cost of energy. And now the bad news – as if there isn’t enough of that around already – the £200 isn’t a gift from a benevolent government, it’s just a loan that must be paid back in full over five years, starting the following April. That’s an extra forty quid a year on energy bills for the next five years. And who knows what level they may have reached in that time? So, thanks for that then, Chancellor Rishi Sunak, and to you too, Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng. 

The beleaguered Kwarteng, in a Sky TV interview, claimed the £200 pay-later levy on energy bills to ease the cost of living
“was impressive” and that it would be a “real help” to millions who will be struggling to pay their energy bills. But he admitted that the next few months are “going to be a very difficult time” as the cost-of-living soars, food bank use is at unprecedented levels and energy prices are rocketing. 

And the Prime Minister’s hastily arranged trip to Saudi Arabia to meet with ruler Mohammed bin Salman to ask him to step up oil production to help ease our domestic crisis, apparently met with little success and only embarrassment as no deal was announced on Johnson’s departure.

The visit was overshadowed too by the fact that Saudi Arabia had executed 81 men by beheading just days before Johnson’s arrival, with three further executions announced while he was there. The UK, like much of the West, has relied heavily on oil from Russia, and after the Saudi trip, which also took in Bahrain, the Prime Minister was accused of turning from one oppressive regime with poor human rights records to another. Foreign secretary Liz Truss said later in a BBC interview that she did not condone the policies of Saudi Arabia before adding that we “have to work with all partners around the world”.

None of this is comforting to UK consumers, especially when they learn that near neighbour France has limited gas price increases to 12.6% and has promised further help when the current cap ends this month. This means an overall increase of just 4% in energy bills, while UK householders face a 54% rise. And the dramatic spike in energy prices here are even more galling to families suffering the biggest net fall in income in three decades, while companies like BP and Shell are reporting record profits, with BP paying no tax on its North Sea oil and gas for five years.

There have been repeated calls in the UK for a windfall tax on fossil fuel profits to ease the burden on the vulnerable, but to date these have come to nothing. Bosses in the fossil fuel industry say that billions are needed to pour into their transition to low carbon companies, but currently this too appears to be coming to nothing.

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