As Bad As Gold

Described as the investment choice of spivs, gold is now on something of a slide. While there is a great deal of schadenfreude in the media associated with the losses suffered by speculators other, more respectable, commodities are also losing their shine. The slowdown in the world economy has seen the price of copper and wheat head south. The commodity price collapses that hurt us, in the UK renewable energy sector, are the declining cost of oil, gas and carbon emission permits. The oil price has been hit by the double whammy of aggressive exploration and a drop in demand as manufacturing slows. Gas is following the oil price down and the ‘make believe’ commodity, carbon emissions, is depressed due to over supply by the EU.

Throughout the developed world emission targets are being met as much by shrinking economic activity as by active reduction schemes. As a result renewables are, pardon the pun, being put on the back burner. Only in mega cities such as Beijing, which experiences the sort of air pollution not seen in western cities for decades, are renewable energy projects being pursued with any real vigour. The pollution associated with the production of the cars and consumer electronics we purchase in the UK no longer choke people living in London and Manchester but, instead, make people’s eyes smart in cities throughout China, India and Korea.

Europe in general, and the UK in particular, seem set to miss out on the green technology revolution, which is viewed as carrying a cost with no immediate benefit – and here 'immediate' means within a four year election cycle. Without a key driver for the market in the West most of the significant progress, and the next generation of manufacturing technology and construction practices, will emerge not here but in the Far East.