Soylent green is made of people.

Polly Pot (sans vegetables on this occasion) appears to be having multiple orgasms over David Milliband’s half-arsed proposals for personal carbon quotas…

But Miliband’s electric radicalism comes in his plan for personal carbon allowances. Here is where social justice meets green politics for the first time. Give every citizen the same quota of energy and let them buy and sell it on the open market. The half of the population who don’t fly will make money from selling their quota to the half who do. Drive a gas-guzzling 4×4 and you will have to buy a quota from the third of the population with no access to a car. Who could complain about such transparent fairness? It is relatively easy to do: swiping a quota card to pay gas and electricity bills or buying petrol is a simpler transaction than Tesco’s complex information on their loyalty card. In wartime, ration books were produced quickly for all, covering almost everything bought and sold, involving every little corner shop. (Could paper ration books be easier than trying to computerise it all?) Why is this a quintessentially Labour policy that the Tories would never copy? Because it in effect redistributes money from the rich to the poor, from the frequent flyers to never-flyers, with a parallel currency. 

And the usual ‘suspects’ – Tim Worstall, Devil’s Kitchen and Factchecking Pollyanna – are rapidly on the case, of course.

Me? I’ve got the odd question or two to ask as well?

Given that a sizeable old proportion of those who would be left with saleable carbon rations under this hare-brained scheme are those who are elderly (and receiving a state pension), on welfare benefits, or on low incomes (and receiving tax credits) and also the kind of people who don’t have a bank account, or have only a basic one, don’t use credit cards, maybe only use a debit card to get cash out of a ‘hole-in-the-wall’, and pay for the gas and electricity using a token meter, perhaps Polly might venture a few answers to the following practical questions.

Where are these people going to go to sell the spare ‘carbon credits’? Not the Post Office, certainly – not after yesterday.
Who will operate and regulate the market?

Will there be commission to be paid on the sale of these credits, and if so, by whom – they buyer, the seller or both? After all, won’t the traders in the market (i.e. the middle men) be expecting to make a little profit themselves?
Will the income from the sale of these credits affect the seller’s entitlement to the benefits they receive?

Will the proceeds of selling carbon credits be classed as taxable income?

(If I got those last two questions right, then I should see the magic words ‘marginal tax rates’ pop up in the comments at some point)

Isn’t this all just another example of a piece of over-complex, unworkable middle-class twattery, that sounds wonderful if you live in Islington but will mean fuck all to anyone living on  a council estate in Gateshead and, like the fuck-ups over tax credits, simply add to the general misery of people who’re already struggling to make ends meet?

Is there not something just plain demeaning about the very idea of issuing people with fucking paper ration books?

Has your column disappeared so far up its own arse that you can now easily give your own kidneys a bit of nibble without stretching?

And have you just not thought this through, as usual?

8 thoughts on “Soylent green is made of people.

  1. You can see what they’re thinking of. Why not translate the popularity of ebay skills into carbon ration trading.

    It must have seemed like a great idea after a convivial lunch and I, for one, can’t explain why the normally shrewd Polly Toynbee has bought the idea.

    The blunt truth is that for every keen ebayer or nectar card points collector, there is another person who is repulsed or confused by this kind of trading.

    It is just not serious social policy unless it is to be an activity of choice, which rather defeats the worthy purpose.

    How about tackling carbon emissions by tackling carbon emissions.

    Now that’s an idea I WOULD support.

  2. As Miliband has already said there are some technical difficulties to overcome, but essentially carbon rationing is a good idea. Me thinks you underestimate the elderly’s ability to understand rationing – they did grow up with it remember. It may seem a little demeaning to you, but we are talking about potential armaggedden here and the UK taking a lead like this might have some influence on the EU, USA, China and India. Even if it doesn’t, like I say here, improving the environment is worth it for its own sake. The alternative is the Lib/Tory regressive strategy of heavily taxing carbon use so the poor suffer the most, being a leftie I don’t like that idea. Mayor Hillman in his book ‘how we can save the planet’ outlines quite well how carbon trading would work.

  3. Not to trot out an old Private Eye arguement… Oh, okay. *To* trot out an old Private Eye arguement – this idea would require a solid computerised dimension to back it up. This technical side of the project would probably be sub-contracted to a cost-cutting company. Has anyone took any notice of the Government’s history of selling off I.T. projects?

    These wonderful I.T. projects have this wonderful habit of being over-budget, late and just plain shite. So, delightful, Robin Hood-like ethics of the whole carbon-selling idea aside, in all probability, it would be racked with errors, database failures and all sorts of other fun.

    And aren’t we sleepwalking into a society were we’ll be charged by the second for living? I mean, we’re going to be charged road tax by the mile, along with being charged for the petrol we use, along with the warmth we want, with carbon credits. Think about it.

    Are those RAF pilots still waiting for their correct pay-packets?

  4. I have a question too.

    What about the children? Will the govt use the scheme to save the world by penalising larger families, or will the only people with 4x4s be single mums with 8 kids and a lot of free carbon credits to burn?

  5. Quite aside from all this, can you imagine any government standing up and teling the voters: “OK you’ve had a few years to get used to this Carbon-trading lark, now we start dropping the allowances.”

    I mean, correct me if I’m wrong, but ultimately the pointof all these schemes is to reduce CO2, right? Granny selling her unused carbon credits to Shell is not going to achieve that, is it?

  6. It seems to be that carbon trading versus green taxes is the corner of the debate worth avoiding.

    Carbon trading is either a vast corporate scam or a fiendish way to absorb the energy and idealism of those pressing for action on carbon emissions.

    The critique of green taxes, that some of them could be regressive, is plainly true. We should get on with congestion charging anyway, but don’t kid yourself that there is any believeable level of (e.g.) aviation tax, that will get us out of this one.

    Strict rationing has been mentioned, with even a reference to the Second World War. It would work, but you’d need a climate catastrophe to implement it.

    So what’s the answer?

    Regulation.

    So, there are physical restrictions on short domestic flights. There are mandatory levels of heat insulation. Supermarkets are prevented from generating tons of unecessary wrapping.

    Hey, this isn’t at all glamorous, is it?

    But it is plausible, constructive, progressive and – get this – it makes sense even in the unlikely event that climate catastrophe scenarios show some slippage.

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