Joe cycled home as quickly as he could. This week the electricity rota for his street provided power between 6 and 12pm and he needed as much time as possible to work on his project. He had hoped to finish the job in October but unfortunately there had been little wind that week and the reduced voltage available had not been enough to run the lathe.
The old generator he had found while scavenging in the disused factory zone would be a godsend for the cold nights of December and January if he could rebuild it in time. All he needed was enough power to run the gas boiler for about 10 minutes each hour to keep the vegetable growing room warm. Somehow the inspectors had missed the boiler when they did the governmental energy equipment audit on the house, and although disused for almost 10 years he thought it should work, and as a bonus the extra electricity would keep the laptop charged so he could study longer.
Fortunately he had occasional use of the company car, and each time he had siphoned a very small amount of petrol from the tank, adding a few extra miles to the odometer by connecting his laptop to the service connector each time just in case the energy auditors did a spot check on his returns. Now he had enough fuel for quite a few hours careful use of the generator.
He would of course have to be very careful. Home electricity generation was a serious crime, and there were plenty of people would inform if he should accidently switch on a bright light during the street’s off hours when only government regulated low power battery lamps were allowed. But the generator was well hidden and soundproofed so he should be safe.
The great crash of 2013 had been a terrible time. The government had spent so much money trying to save the Euro and avert the crash that when it eventually happened the country was completely bankrupt and with huge foreign debts. The EU emergency committee took over almost immediately and had instantly nationalised all property and the banking sector. They sequestered 90% of all bank accounts and pension savings and instigated a 90% tax rate. The meager citizen’s income they paid out to every household in compensation and in lieu of all other pensions and benefits was barely enough to exist. Yet compared to many people he realized he was very fortunate. Because he had a job he could keep 10% of his earnings to supplement the government handout, and more importantly with the children being at home he had been allowed to remain living in his house and had access to his small workshop.
With all imports closed down to prevent money going abroad and industry dependent on limited and unreliable wind energy the economy, such as it was, was completely stagnant. 60% unemployment and acute austerity measures meant there was no money for luxuries. Private cars were of course highly regulated, and in any case there was no petrol except for the lucky few granted ‘needs rations’.
Before he could escape to his project he had to help his daughter. Her school homework was an essay about the benefits of the EU and how the world had been made safe by reducing carbon use. Joe remembered the good times before 2010 when they had money, could heat the house, own a family car and could take holidays and enjoy days out. Of course he dare not contradict what his daughter had been taught, it would immediately trigger a visit from the child protection agency if her teacher detected any unauthorised value judgments or reactionary ideas in her work.
Bert took his new car out of the garage ready to take the family for their day out at the theme park to celebrate his daughter’s birthday. It had been a very difficult few years but at last things were looking better and he could look forward to a future for his family.
Back in early 2012 when the People Against Fuel Poverty campaign started up everyone treated it as just another protest group. But the shocking spectacle of a group of impoverished pensioners from Tyneside who drove their minibus into Parliament square and set themselves alight during the coldest February on record had galvanized the nation. It had turned a protest group into a guerilla army, smashing windfarms, holding daily protests about fuel costs, occupying government offices and making city centers into no-go areas.
The imposition of martial law had just inflamed the situation and the Con-Lib coalition broke up very quickly. New elections, staged against a background of civil unrest, changed the face of the UK political scene. The established parties saw their support halved and the new parliament contained many independents, some supported by action groups such as the EDL, and a good number of UKIP members.
The new coalition under Iain Duncan Smith, being dependent on UKIP and independent support, had no choice but completely change direction. The complete cessation of all domestic green taxes and energy subsidies for 5 years along with the immediate 25% drop in energy prices went down very badly with the Greens and left wing, but brought some order back.
Withdrawal from the EU followed soon after when Greece, Italy and Ireland left the Eurozone. For a while the country was in financial chaos, much industry and commerce came to a halt for 3 months as the EU countries tried to sideline the UK, it was grim and frightening, but things soon started to improve. The opening of the shale gas deposits took a couple of years but with the supply of abundant cheap energy jobs, manufacturing and exports surged. The UK was wonderfully situated to act as a bridge between the Western European trade group comprising Ireland, the Nordic countries, Spain and Portugal and the now expanding commonwealth trade block.
The new car was a bit of a luxury, but these high efficiency cars, designed to run on liquid gas, were so clean running and cheap to run that family and social life had never been better.