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We’ve said before that planning doesn’t really work

Summary:
In fact we’ve said twice, just recently, that detailed planning of a society doesn’t work. Now we’ve that thrice:The energy sector has derided the EPC system – which rates homes from A to G – as “not fit for purpose”. The grading is based on bills, not on carbon output, meaning it can punish people for installing heat pumps and incentivises the use of gas over electricity. Inconsistencies in the system mean that homeowners can pay thousands of pounds for work that they later find actually lowered their EPC rating.Tom Spurrier, of the UK Green Building Council, an industry body, said: “We have currently got a metric that incentivises gas because it is cheaper.” If you install a heat pump, which is powered by electricity, your EPC rating may fall.If you spend - substantial amounts - of money

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In fact we’ve said twice, just recently, that detailed planning of a society doesn’t work. Now we’ve that thrice:

The energy sector has derided the EPC system – which rates homes from A to G – as “not fit for purpose”. The grading is based on bills, not on carbon output, meaning it can punish people for installing heat pumps and incentivises the use of gas over electricity. Inconsistencies in the system mean that homeowners can pay thousands of pounds for work that they later find actually lowered their EPC rating.

Tom Spurrier, of the UK Green Building Council, an industry body, said: “We have currently got a metric that incentivises gas because it is cheaper.” If you install a heat pump, which is powered by electricity, your EPC rating may fall.

If you spend - substantial amounts - of money to make a dwelling less polluting, less likely to broil Flipper in the fumes of that last ice floe, the government’s measurement system records that dwelling as being more polluting, more likely to broil Flipper in the fumes of that last ice floe.

Why?

When the EPC system was designed in 2007, electric generation was very different. Ten years ago, using electricity produced more than twice as much carbon as gas; now, it is half that of gas.

“In terms of overall net zero, we need to switch as much as we can to electricity,” said Mr Spurrier. But because the EPC system has not changed, it incentivises homeowners to do the opposite.

The measurement system is 14 years out of date at a time of vast technological change. Well, it’s either that or our rulers are drooling incompetents, a sad state of affairs that would be but one that does have to be considered.

Note what this does not mean, that there is nothing that could - to leave aside the should for a moment - be done to deal with climate change. This crafting of glaringly stupid and detailed rules is clearly beyond state capacity. But we do have other tools available. Like, say, just the one simple switch for the entire economy, the carbon tax. Levy that Pigou Tax at the social cost of carbon and allow our one great economic calculating machine, the market economy itself, to chew through the implications.

This being why Bill Nordhaus has his Nobel, because this is what he said we should do. Why Nick Stern is the Right Hon for telling us so in his Review, why 93% of surveyed economists insisted this was the solution. True, they didn’t all recommend this because they thought that the British civil service were too stupid to handle anything else but the recommendation does cover that possibility.

If - if! - anything needs to be done about climate change it needs to be the one, simple, thing. On the basis that the taxeaters just aren’t capable of managing anything more complex than the one simple thing.

It’s long been said that the British civil service is a concentration of Rolls Royce minds. Which could even be true but then there is always that horses for courses thing. We’d not use the similarly named car to negotiate tricky chicanes or a back country road at speed, however comfortable they are on a wide straight highway. Best to limit both of them to where things are simple, eh?

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Tim Worstall
Tim Worstall is a British-born writer and Senior Fellow of the Adam Smith Institute. Worstall is a regular contributor to Forbes and the Register. He has also written for the Guardian, the New York Times, PandoDaily, the Daily Telegraph blogs, the Times, and The Wall Street Journal. In 2010 his blog was listed as one of the top 100 UK political blogs by Total Politics.

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