Patio Heaters

Some MEPs want to ban patio heaters:

The EU parliament is expected to back a resolution requiring the use of appliances with low energy efficiency to be phased out. Patio heaters are specifically targeted in the motion, which calls on the EU to act urgently and introduce minimum standards for energy efficiency on such appliances as air-conditioning, television “decoder” boxes and light bulbs.

Patio heaters are used for two purposes: by pubs wanting to allow customers to sit outside and still be warm, and by people using them in their gardens. The first use has been greatly increased in the UK by the smoking bans introduced in the UK, and the correct response would be to allow pubs to have an indoor area where smokers could smoke. Because it’s unreasonable to expect employees to have to endanger their health in the course of their work, this area probably wouldn’t be cleaned except after the pub closes at night, but I doubt if people who deliberately inhale smoke and ash would be all that bothered.

People using patio heaters at home are not really a problem, because the proportion of carbon emissions caused by that use is miniscule. Home patio heaters are a stupid idea — there’s already a perfectly good technology for staying warm when it is cold outside, called “buildings” — and people who use them are idiots who I disapprove of on aesthetic grounds. But that doesn’t mean they should be made illegal; if people want to waste their money (including paying a tax to pay for the negative externalities they cause), that’s up to them.

If the EU want to reduce carbon emissions, there are two things they must do. Firstly, they must tax activities that emit carbon, ideally according to the amount of CO2-equivalent they emit. And secondly they must persuade outside countries to do the same — China and the USA each produce more emissions than the EU, and China’s emissions in particular are growing quickly. Because most countries do a large proportion of their trade with the EU, the EU can use tariffs as a lever with which to influence these countries.

There are other policies that it might also be useful for the EU to pursue — for example, encouraging research on solar energy — but unless they do the two things I’ve stated above, they might as well not bother doing anything at all, because other policies will not on their own be effective.

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