Peter Rhodes on spying smartphones, charging cars and how driving could become strictly for the rich

Read today's column from Peter Rhodes.

Who's charging whom?
Who's charging whom?

Okay, we've had a week of hand-wringing, gasping and eye-stretching. Please, can we now rediscover the Great British sense of priority? While I enjoy Beeb-bashing as much as any other newspaper hack, I can't for the life of me see how the BBC's image in 2021 can be seriously damaged by something that happened in 1995. While there are all sorts of good reasons for reforming the Beeb, the Diana affair is not one of them.

Strange, isn't it, how news about things that don't affect us in the slightest distracts us from things that really, seriously do affect us? So while we're all focused on Harry's mental state, the historical wickedness of the BBC and another badge-of-honour thrashing at Eurovision (seriously, didn't you punch the air in joy at nul points?), anybody spot the proposals to force us to energy-proof our homes, on pain of debt?

Briefly, the plan is this. If some Government climate advisers get their way, by the year 2030 all new homes on the market and all homes with a mortgage must have an EPC (Environmental Performance Certificate) of C. Reaching that standard, with zero-emission heating, triple glazing and insulation, could cost some householders £18,000. If the advisers get their way and you choose not to do the work, you won't be able to sell or rent the property.

While you're saving the money to buy those heat pumps, you might also consider putting a few thousand aside for your first electric car. This week, as Ofgem announced plans to triple the number of electric-car charging points, a spokeswoman claimed “the big question” for motorists was whether they would be able to travel in this country without running out of power.

But isn't the really big question, cheerfully dodged by power firms and politicians, that the average second-hand car, as driven by a majority of motorists, is worth about £8,000 while a basic electric car is about £30,000? How is Joe Public supposed to bridge the gap? Or should we be bracing ourselves for a great 100-year social leap backwards to the 1930s and humbly accept that driving a car is strictly for the rich?

On Friday May 21 I wrote: “Smartphones are the ultimate state-control and corporate-snooping devices and yet we allegedly freedom-loving Brits are snapping them up like sweeties. Surveillance? We love it.”

Two days later the Sunday Telegraph reported: “A report from . . . Government scientists revealed that data from one in ten peoples’ phones were tracked in February without their owners’ awareness. Oxford University experts (using cell-phone mobility data) found 4,254 individuals were vaccinated .”

Meanwhile, another save-the-planet scheme is launched. Carbon dioxide will be sucked from the air using trees, peat, rock chips, and charcoal in trials across the UK. I feel sure we humans could join in this noble enterprise. All together, suck . . . .

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