Well it’s the Times again but the headlines says it all, French election may leave nuclear no longer an option. In a way they don’t realise what they are saying. Of course they are going to have a go at the new socialist leader of the France, after all it is likely that his policy will force the likes of EDF, the French energy giant, to focus it’s attention, and investment, on France. The argument goes that Hollande would prefer that EDF spend money on domestic power generation from renewables and energy efficiency schemes, and importantly, not continue with its UK nuclear programme. And it all sort of misses the point really and that is that the energy needs of a country is in the hands of one company. If EDF does indeed decide to scale back his or her nuclear programme the UK will be facing a future energy shortage or be scrambling around to get someone else to do it. Precarious doesn’t even do it justice.

We have been here before but last time it was when the regulator stood up for the consumer for pricing. There was some suitably glowing coverage of the new appointee at the time, tough talking on behalf of the man on the street. On page 5 on that day, towards the end of a fairly lengthy piece looking at the energy market there was a short paragraph including a warning from energy companies that curtailment of their activities and price controls would make it ‘very difficult’ for them to continue with the nuclear programme investment.

And there it was, a few companies that were once given the key to the goldmine through privatisation, were quietly able to hold the company to ransom. We charge what we like, you the government back off, you the consumer pay….or you get cold, your choice, that’s the deal. Prudential did some similar sabre rattling quietly the other day about threatening to leave if regulations got in the way of their profiteering. People will call this anti-business rhetoric. Is it? Or is it that there is an inherent threat to society built into markets where their players can threaten society, either by withholding investment or taking away jobs.

And so it is that we now find ourselves at the hands of an energy company who’s fortune and strategy may have changed because of the will of a people and political change. We shall see but either way, it is just one further example of the corporatization of our lives, it’s subjugation to corporate needs and principles. The new empires are there for all to see.

The Times would rather blame the socialist, of course it would. But perhaps we should be thinking of the greater arguments that will be there beyond the election of a new leader this year or next, a conflict that may rage for years to come and where we are just seeing the first skirmishes. It should not be a surprise that Argentina took over an energy company. That is just the start of the backlash as the dial turns from 60/40 in favour of business and the minority to 40/60 in favour of the people and the majority.

The Times, “French election may leave nuclear no longer an option.” 8 May 2012

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