Opinion

Shooting with King's powder

bombilla

"Shooting (or shooting) with King's gunpowder" is an old and frequently used phrase, mainly in the political sphere. It is an expression that used to be and is usually used when, without hesitation and without qualms, a lot of other people's resources are used to cover any social need, almost always in search of political gain, and above all, if the expenditure is made even if it involves a large stipend.

It is very frequent and relatively easy to see that many public officials use these extraordinary expenses, which are not their own, in new and costly initiatives or to cover unscheduled demands. Expenses that cannot even come out of the budget surplus and that, in order to pay for them, it is necessary to resort to other people's assets with the consequent cost and risk for those who finally have to pay for them.

I suppose that etymologically this phrase entered the popular lore because back in ancient times, European kings spent most of their time fighting for notoriety, envy, to cover personal ambitions, seeking to expand their territories or just to distract themselves; without caring about the fact that wars themselves, as well as the employment or maintenance of troops during and after them, have never been cheap and it could happen that some unwary people thought that it was the King who paid for them out of his personal coffers, without realising that it was always the common people who, with great effort and personal sacrifice, had to replenish those coffers when all too often they were empty.

This tradition and false expectation of solving everything in a big way, very used in the past and unfortunately, dragged to our days although it is not fought with such frequency and intensity, is used with greater frequency by the governments of the left, various coalitions or associations of countries that by contagion or not to be left behind, contract commitments without the real help of authentic coalitions or associations of countries, make commitments without the assistance of real experts to assess their real costs and without any minimum estimation of the scope of the economic, social and industrial decisions which, separately or in coalition, are adopted with relative joy and which soon, given their intensity or seriousness, turn against the policy adopted like a large and dangerous boomerang.

This is the case of the unusual joy shown, especially in Europe, for the adoption of drastic and bloody measures - above all for the taxpayer's pocket - in reference to the necessary and obligatory individual and collective actions to "face or avoid the disasters caused by the harmful and growing climate change due to the abusive action of man", mainly concerning the important reduction in the emission of carbon dioxide (CO2).

Traditionally, the big producers of this chemical component, such as China, Russia, India and the USA, and some other smaller ones, have been resisting the intoxicating impulse of the rest of the world to accept the commitments that have been insistently dragging on from past climate change summits in Kyoto, Madrid and Paris and a few others.

Although some have changed their attitude somewhat, many are still not giving in completely, given that the alternative to using coal or gas - in a world in which it looks very nice and pro-green to declare "no nuclear" and close the few remaining plants of this type, even if it is a very "clean" energy - is really very expensive; dependent on variable and uncontrolled climatic factors (wind, sun and rain); clearly insufficient to cover the total needs, even if all of them work in unison and at full capacity -which never happens- so they are incapable of supplying with guarantees everything generated by the elements that are to be shut down.

On the old continent, the very young and inexperienced Europe, with Merkel's Germany at the head, has been pulling the green bandwagon for years (perhaps to avoid the opposition eating its party's toast when it comes to retiring), closing a large part of its nuclear power plants (not so in France) and giving an early expiry date to the remaining plants of the same type. Spain, as always, although without generating its own energy and without any political cause for this, has been dragged along by the German mode.

An initial impulse, which the Germans are already beginning to regret or think twice about; because, as the clever and good calculators that they are, they have done the maths and are beginning to tremble at the prospect of what they will soon have to pay for energy costs due to the payment of the CO2 emitted according to European regulations; although, to avoid entering into a price spiral as in Spain, Italy or Portugal, they have taken certain measures to reduce the large national taxes that make it more expensive.

In the meantime, and while awaiting some other alternative in the making, such as nuclear fission plants, some countries still maintain the pernicious and costly use of coal to avoid their heavy dependence on fluctuating imports of Russian or Algerian gas, both in quantity and price, to cool their hot tourist resorts or heat their cold homes and move medium and heavy industry.

In Spain, a country in which we are accustomed to the bungling of the moment, to the fundamentally mediatic and therefore ill-considered or improvised patch-up and to doing things badly all too often, we find ourselves in a situation of total chaos and crisis in this respect.

A situation that is a handicap for a government that spent many years in opposition criticising its predecessor because its energy policy was a great misunderstanding with society after raising prices by a small percentage at the time, and was tired of making empty promises to seriously correct them and protect the most needy from such excesses.

Promises, which he tried to keep as soon as he came to power and which he has completely forgotten in less than two years. To date, and at least in the Community of Madrid, tens of thousands of families still do not receive in 2021 one of the aids promised by the Government of Pedro Sánchez, the Bono Social Térmico.

As a result of the above, the price of electricity, driven by various endogenous and exogenous factors, is today four times more expensive than when they promised the energy arcadia (these days the megawatt will reach 200 euros, and rising, in its peak hour), the light rises to all equally and does not respect neither citizens who live on a small salary, a grant or a pension, nor small or medium-sized enterprises, nor large fortunes or major industries that consume large amounts of energy; As a result, increases as significant as the present ones, mean a rise in their production prices that are difficult to absorb at the expense of their ever-decreasing profits.

As if this were not enough, to the higher costs mentioned above must be added the large increase in the price of oil derivatives (liquid and gaseous), which means a direct increase in the price of electricity production and has repercussions on the transport of products, the maintenance of the cold cycle, their storage and distribution itself. Consequently, the CPI rises proportionally to the above, which directly influences the capacity and level of consumption of citizens and, in the short term, the commitments made by the government to maintain the purchasing power of minimum wages and pensions in future revisions.

We suffer from a government that, despite confessing to be socialist and communist to the core, lives from, by and for taxes. Wherever there is a glimpse of a loophole from which to extract a penny from the citizen and the small or large businessman, they are on the hunt for them, there by failing to fulfil their promise to only tax those who have the most; today, we are all suffering from their tax collection whirlwind and their successive claws.

It has been precisely in the price to be paid for energy (of any electricity bill, the Treasury collects almost 60% of its amount) and fuel, and not for its real value, where the government has found one of its greatest revenue-raising reefs. Some of these taxes are inherited, others are new, and most are the result of concessions or payments on account of previous offers to impose certain changes in the way energy is obtained.

Despite the huge bite that comes into the state coffers in this way, and instead of reducing them to more reasonable limits, after much lobbying and horse-trading, the government has opted for a double game; lowering them temporarily - at the most until April next year and then recovering them again after that date - and then taking away a series of revenues from the electricity companies (possibly also temporarily), which, by the way, had been agreed with them years ago in exchange for various costly investments and modifications to the grid to make it more competitive by updating it and making it more efficient. 

As with everything the government and, above all, its president, usually sells us; it is not only a lie, it is almost always provisional, it is usually rectified and falls within the parameters of what is known as "bread for today, but hunger for tomorrow" because, as its application is temporary, the return to the same parameters, after a certain period of time, is simply a transfer of the problem without having solved it.

On the other hand, any drastic and hurtful measure adopted against lobbies or multimillionaire companies, linked to strong investors or important banking entities based in different territories with a tendency towards independence or self-sufficiency; legislated in a hasty, populist, drastic, hot-headed manner and without listening to all the parties involved, will undoubtedly have immediate or short-term repercussions on economic stability, future legal security, and even parliamentary stability.

With regard to this last point, it should be borne in mind that those territories and the nationalist or separatist political parties that govern them are opposed to the general interest of the State, very suspicious of the immunity of the companies based in them and, as in this case, form a substantial part of the framework on which the national government relies to continue with its mandate or to approve its legislative needs.

The hasty Decree approved this week by the executive means a blow to the electricity companies by cutting their profits by 4,000 million euros and leaving the Treasury coffers without receiving 2,000 million euros, and although it will be provisional, it has had a rapid stock market response in the first two days since its publication, in which these companies lost more than 7,500 million euros in their share price. 

All populist governments, which spend money they don't have hand over fist and use it as they used to do with the King's gunpowder, end up finding in this their Achilles' heel, so that sooner or later, the reckless and happy times of "bread and circuses" turn against them, because the people, however lazy, bought or dim-witted they may be, increasingly ask for more bread and like the circus less and less.