gas works
Gas works

I imagine that international consciousness of the fact that water is indirectly delivered from the heavens for free initially prevented the despots of what became the EU from attempting to tax delivery of that precious and life-giving resource.

The early years of the coming together of Europe's nation states in a progressive community, dedicated to delivering Marxism disguised as the mixed economy, also happened to coincide with the conversion of the northern tier of western European from town gas produced from coal to natural gas tapped, as fresh water often is, from beneath the land and increasingly from beneath the sea.

In even medium-sized British towns, smelly gasworks advertised their presence by large and highly visible gasometers. They were steadily replaced by vans converting every street to North Sea gas. Gas lights spluttered their welcome pools of light every quarter of a mile or so into the Devon countryside as I cycled home from boy scouts, running to a halt when I still had over a mile to continue, with only the stars (unfiltered by any orange sodium glow) and the glow-worms in the high hedgerows to keep me safe from the bogeyman, in whom, of course, I no longer believed.

These were the days before even British Gas, itself now supposedly replaced in the public mind by the villainous Centrica whose latest price gouging is neatly encapsulated in the statement that it "raised tariffs 6 percent for around 8.4 million households at the end of 2012. Operating profit for the segment rose 11 percent to £606m."

The Gas Council ran things in those days with some rather quaint financial structures, as I experienced when working for a US oil company developing the North Sea oilfield Beryl.

After leaving the UK in the Wilson/Callaghan years, disgusted at the blatant and deliberate attempt to undermine, if not sabotage, the North Sea oil industry for ruinous point-scoring dressed up as "participation", I spent some time working in the US. Here, my ultimate employer was a natural gas transmission pipeline company, regulated (quite properly) as a public utility, down to the finest detail of our corporate accounts.

Before leaving Britain, I had seen the British Gas Council, in the shape of Sir Denis Rooke, make possible the country's conversion to natural gas to the benefit of the consumer and a maximum return to the oil industry investors of 20 percent AARR, the industry minimum for offshore exploration to be viable. For the last 20 years I have looked on in horror at how this supply of warmth to the cold northernmost countries of Europe has been manipulated to extract revenue in a manner reminiscent of the means by which the euro is now being used to bring austerity to those beyond the reach of such warmth extortion.

In the process, our civil service has been bent to an extent that must have Sir Denis not just turning, but writhing in his grave.

There cannot be a wholesale gas price index set by giants engaged in the business. Only full government right of audit and prohibition of cross-border transfers can achieve what national and EU politicians claim is a regulated market.

This is not some new fact. It has been known and recognised in the US in law for years. There can only be one reason that that is not the case within the EU - companies and/or regulators are making unjustified profits, presumably leading to some individuals somewhere receiving rake-offs.

Martin Cole runs several politically themed blogs, mainly Ironies Too, and tweets and comments about the erosions of liberty