Crying wolf

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The Energy Intensive Users Group has been in existence for 20 years. During this time, they have repeated the same simple two mantras: Electricity prices in the UK are too high, and if they aren’t reduced immediately, heavy industry will up and leave.

I woke just recently to hear the group’s chairman, Stephen Elliott, on the BBC Radio 4 Today programme, claiming that there is “increasing evidence that energy is the single most important swing factor as to whether investments comes to the UK.”

So, not workforce skills. Not tax-breaks, like regional location grants. Not good transport infrastructure. Not easy access to a large consumer market. But simply the comparative costs of energy. I really do wonder precisely where that ‘increasing evidence’ of the overwhelming importance of this single factor is to be found.

Then Elliott – whose day job is running the Chemical Industries Association – went on to claim that: “If you look back over the past decade or so, you could certainly point to businesses that have closed, or moved offshore.” All due to higher fuel prices. As ever, no specific company, even from within the chemical industry, is cited as actually having departed these shores just because they couldn’t buy electricity cheaply enough. 

Again, I really do wonder whether the EIUG could provide us with a few concrete examples where this exodus really has occurred “over the past decade or so.” And again, I am beginning to wonder whether all this bombast has substance behind it.