Government - burning our energy as well as our money

The Government thinks that we should be using energy more efficiently. They are right. So guess which sector increased its consumption of electricity the most in Europe between 1999 and 2004. Industry? Households? No, it was the "tertiary sector" - in other words, government, state-funded services, the voluntary sector and commerce.

Industrial consumption was up by 9.5%, domestic by 10.8%, and the tertiary sector by a wapping 15.6%. Were our leaders and bureaucrats getting more wasteful, or were there just more of them? Or both?

If you find ways to save energy in your business, profits are increased and your career or business should prosper. If you find ways to save energy at home, you save money to spend on other things. If you work for the government and you find ways to save save other people (taxpayers) some money, and your budget gets cut. I wonder why government has been least successful?

Under the Kyoto treaty, Europe has committed to reduce its carbon-emissions by 8% relative to 1990 levels by 2012. Europe is nowhere near on track, and in fact is reducing its emissions less effectively than America. I guess this failure to restrain the growth of electricity demand may not be helping. But will Europe or the British government now acknowledge that environmental instruments designed to minimise the cost to the end consumer may not be the best way of getting end consumers to think about their consumption? Of course not. They'll keep on trying to cajole and regulate better behaviour, because who believes in price signals as determinants of behaviour in the modern Europe? Don't give people incentives to work out the best way to cut their consumption - much better to work out what people should be doing and then try to make them do it despite inadequate incentives.