A senior official at the European Commission – the equivalent of the EU’s Government – says the continent must accept that the two necessities of life – food and fuel – have been far too cheap for a generation and to save the planet we must all pay more. Diederik Samsom, Chief of Staff for Frans Timmermans, the Commission’s Executive Vice-President responsible for energy policy, made the comments at a recent meeting of Brussels policymakers. The Times has more.
This spring’s inflation figures for the eurozone are bleak: annual inflation is at more than 7%, and a 44% increase in energy costs is also driving up food prices. A double whammy of the invasion of Ukraine, leading to the phasing out of Russian fossil fuel imports, and Europe’s transition to carbon-free energy have hastened the huge price increases.
Higher energy costs, including a sixfold increase in the cost of gas as an agricultural input, have driven food prices even higher. And the war in Ukraine has disrupted markets in key agricultural commodities, such as wheat and cooking oil, causing knock-on effects all the way along supply chains.
In EU countries the cost of soft wheat has increased 64.6% since March last year and the price of rapeseed, a key oil seed, has risen 77.8%. There are now shortages of sunflower oil, of which 73% of global exports originate in Russia and Ukraine.
The European Commission, which sets key energy policies across the European Union, sees the higher bills as a long overdue and unavoidable reckoning with reality.
Diederik Samsom, Chief of Staff for Frans Timmermans, the Commission’s Executive Vice-President responsible for energy policy, warned that the previous low cost of living came at the expense of the environment and depended on imports of Russia’s fossil fuels.
Samsom admitted that “no one dares to say out loud” to voters that past living standards were unsustainable and that higher prices will be permanent.
“Yes, energy will be much more expensive as of now. Energy was way too cheap for the last 40 years,” he told a recent meeting of Brussels policymakers at the Bruegel think tank, urging governments to confront “taboos”.
“We have profited from it and created enormous wealth at the expense of planet Earth and, as we realise right now, at the expense of geopolitical imbalances [with dependency on Russia]. Both need to be repaired. In order to repair them we need to pay more for energy – and also for food. The two basic needs of life – food and energy – we have paid way too little for in the past 40 years.”