Sunday, May 19, 2024
HomeClimate WatchGrant Shapps and the killing of Port Talbot

Grant Shapps and the killing of Port Talbot


HERE’S a question for Grant Shapps, our wonderful Secretary of State for Defence and former Secretary of State for Business, Energy Security and Net Zero. How do you propose to make weaponry in the UK without a domestic supply of high carbon steel (that’s the stuff made at Tata’s Port Talbot plant which is now closing because of Net Zero)?

It’s not just the military who need high carbon steel – it’s used in all sorts of applications that require very high strength. The only way to make it is in a coke-fired blast furnace. Sure, lower-strength steels can be made in electric arc furnaces, but this process can’t increase the amount of carbon. The strength is in the percentage of carbon. Electric arc furnaces are simply recycling mild steel. Anyone in the UK requiring genuine high-strength steel must now import it. This has three significant repercussions.

Firstly, for those who care about such things, a switch to imported steel adds to the COemissions per ton because it now needs to be transported from wherever it was made – probably China, India or the United States. This is of course in addition to the CO2 from the original manufacturing process.

Secondly, it increases the UK’s imports quota. The supplier country gets wealthy on our pound, as do the shipping companies (almost certain to be registered in a tax haven).

Thirdly, it kills jobs. Tata Steel employs about 5,000. The working-age population of Neath/Port Talbot, as the ONS aggregates it, is about 65,000, of whom 25 per cent are unemployed. Closing Tata destroys 10 per cent of the jobs in the area.

This is just the direct employment loss. Steel workers are reasonably well-paid, so they have surplus income to spend locally. Courtesy of Net Zero, this will be curtailed. The shops and businesses they used to patronise will see their incomes fall. Some will lay off workers, some will fold, all of which piles on to the existing economic travails of south-west Wales.

Boris Johnson promised us a green jobs bonanza. There is precious little evidence for this in the valleys. The ONS headline figure for green jobs is some 526,000 full-time workers.The ONS describes this as an ‘experimental number’. On closer examination, its definition of ‘green jobs’ is broad to say the least. They include environmental charities, environmental consultancies, environmental-related education, grid infrastructure, forest management, managerial activities of government bodies, and waste and wastewater services.

An awful lot of that activity existed before. These employment figures have been ‘greenwashed’. The water, waste and recycling industries may be green but they’re not new. Of the 526,000 ‘green workers’ just 35,000 are in green energy, up 8,000 in five years. If this blatant rebranding is at the cost of the 18,000 jobs Port Talbot supports, only an idiot would call this progress. 

The Net Zero lunacy is creating jobs – and highly paid at that. But they are in London, supporting the Climate Change Committee, the Carbon Trust, any amount of green energy consultants from the big four consultancies, and pressure groups and charities. They’re not generating wealth, they’re exporting it. Of course, worse than this, they’re making energy more expensive, jeopardising existing trade and business, and are actually increasing total emissions through offshoring manufacturing processes. The current ‘territorial’ counting methods are based on ‘consumption’ and not ‘production’, so they cleverly exclude international travel and imported goods.

It is interesting therefore, when the Secretary of State talks about ‘resilience’. Shapps is currently scare-mongering about the threat of Russia’s army and emphasising the need to secure our supply chains – vulnerable as they are to Houthis with missiles.

Shapps’s colleagues in Westminster fret about growth yet their actions deliver poverty, vulnerability, despair and decline. For an (allegedly) Conservative government to inflict this wanton, ideologically driven economic destruction is unprecedented and intolerable. Labour won’t save us from it as it was Ed Miliband who invented the Net Zero target. LibDems and Greens adore it too.

South Wales was once an industrial heartland. Courtesy of the coal in the Rhondda and the port at Swansea, it was one of the engine rooms of the industrial revolution and the British economy. Unionised workforces and a deep affection for socialism meant it was also a Labour stronghold. It still is today, with the double benefit of Labour having a majority in the Welsh Assembly since Tony Blair created it in 1998. In normal circumstances one would think that South Wales would continue to vote Labour. However, these are not normal circumstances.

Across the UK around 20 per cent of the population is economically inactive. 

In Cardiff, this is a shocking 25 per cent. In the rest of South Wales it’s a staggering, shameful 30 per cent. This is before we come to the Port Talbot debacle. As the Saatchi brothers once said, ‘Labour isn’t working’.

The Welsh are heartily sick of Net Zero, the Labour Party and their Plaid Cymru lapdogs. The only party with a policy of ending this madness is Reform. It’s not just the Tories who are under pressure.

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Patrick Benham-Crosswell
Patrick Benham-Crosswell
Patrick Benham-Crosswell is a former Army officer who has spent the last 30 years in commerce. He is the author of Net Zero: The Challenges, Costs and Consequences of the UK's Zero Emission Ambition. He has a substack here.

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