Thank you Muammar

The Libyan crisis has once again exposed our addiction to the black stuff. Whether crude gets through $200/barrel this time around or whether it will need another round of political unrest to spike dramatically one thing is for sure - it's not going to get any cheaper. I'm very sympathetic to those folk who are struggling with the diesel and petrol prices which have ensued; it's ridiculous to argue a car is a luxury item in the countryside - it's a necessity - and sometimes a 4X4 is a necessity too. There are those who have a Clarkson-like disregard for practicalities like fuel consumption, however, and seem to be in denial about the short, medium, and long term prognosis for the price of crude. Rising oil prices are not George Osborne or anyone else's fault other than our own. We've noticed this about houses as well. Oil fired heating and hot water boilers and cooking appliances are very much the norm hereabouts. The bills have, recently, been UNBELIEVABLE. And what's odd is that people don't seem to be doing much about it - at least yet. We're house hunting at the moment and have been amazed at the lack of insulation, properly fitted double glazing and modern boilers we've seen. The estate agents don't even mention good insulation when it does occur. This is quite apart from any micro-energy generation. Recent Feed in Tariffs have made solar power particularly attractive, but we haven't seen anywhere that has it. A friend of mine with an old mill house has a micro hydro-electric scheme and is making out like a bandit.
Against this background of rather bizarre inactivity I was hugely cheered by the Ecobuild exhibition at ExCel last week. I popped up to London to do some personal research prior to buying a house, as well as to chat to people like the Bat Conservation Trust and to check out green roofs and walls with my corporate hat on. I came back with a trolley load of brochures and tremendously excited. The advances in technology there have been in areas like solar power generation, heat exchange pumps, insulation, boilers and biomass heating systems are fantastic. High oil prices and the introduction of the Renewable Heat Incentive this week mean they are now a no-brainer, and low interest rates mean they are... even more of a no brainer. It's a fact of life that the vast majority of people will only react to this kind of issue if they are self-interested. This is a mantra familiar to readers of this blog. In this instance they won't reduce their carbon footprint to save the planet, but they will do it to save some of their hard earned cash. I guess it's rare that an economic crisis produces such a potentially spectacular ecological (and, hopefully, political) dividend like this with only a relatively small nudge from HMG. Perhaps we should be thankful for it.