After a lovely and very active birthday celebration at Annabel’s country house, I decided to drive back to London and do nothing but relax at my childhood home in St John’s Wood. I do feel so very much at home with Annabel but there is something to be said for sleeping through breakfast or taking one’s tea in bed. The fact that Judith (mummy) was away also meant nothing would come between me and watching old movies on my laptop.
I arrived to find a large delivery from Paxton and Whitfield, which meant Daddy and I could spend our evenings chatting over cocktails and nibbles and discussing anything at all without the need to dress or go out. I was five minutes into a bath when I got a text from my housekeeper in California. She informed me that ‘because of 'inflation’ she has to raise her rates.
‘Inflation?’ I texted back. I mean… what inflation? I pay for supplies.
Up, up, and away!
‘Gas is so expensive now, I really don’t have any choice.’ she texted back. Well of course petrol is expensive, but the 'no choice' is debatable. And I don’t know why I’m supposed to make up the difference. Ugh. It’s interesting that, from my perspective, she’s got a helluva deal, getting paid to clean when I’m not even there; and from hers, she needs more money just to show up. We’re clearly not on the same page.
In the end, I agreed to pay her higher rate and decided to have her come only twice a month. And with that, my head was thinking about everything back in LA… the gas pumps, tent cities, the parking crush at Whole Foods… obviously this bath is over. Grr! I could hear my father putting ice in the bar and so I made my way downstairs.
‘G&T?’ he asked.
‘Sure, why not.’ I said. No sense bringing up anything about California, he’d only launch into why I keep a place where I seem not to want to live. But he beat me to the punch.
‘$7.55 for gasoline in California today I read. I guessed $7, I was off by 55 cents.’
‘Yes, it’s a lot.’ I said, ‘But if it saves the life of even one Ukrainian…’
Everybody loves Ukrainians.
‘If WHAT saves the life of Ukrainian?' Uh oh. He went on...'How is paying more for gasoline saving lives in Ukraine?'
UGH! Truth is I didn’t know. I was just repeating what I’d heard on the news. And it wasn’t just me—loads of people had said so.
‘Jennifer! he asked, sharply. ‘I am waiting for an answer!’
‘I don’t have an answer. I heard it on a newscast.’
‘Well I certainly believe that.’ Daddy said.
I lifted the lemon out of my drink and crunched on an ice cube. ‘How’s mummy?’
‘She’s fine, but if we can just get back to this one point, my little green-nik, you cannot, in good service of your clients, and being my daughter, go out into the world imagining we get oil from Ukraine. Or that somehow these prices are due to the conflict with Russia.’
‘Okay.’ I said, ‘but prices are affected by futures and…
'And what?’ he asked.
‘Well I don't know exactly, maybe they suspected Russia would invade Ukraine...’
‘Maybe, but the U.S. only gets 7 percent of its oil from Russia, and here in England we get just 3 percent.’
‘So the surge is from…?’
‘Your clients mostly.’ He said. ‘It was decreed, that investments in oil and gas must be eradicated even without another option in sight, Now it’s one thing to fund alternative options -- even the oil companies do that -- but it is quite another for federal officials to make decisions every single day, to drive up the cost of gasoline and natural gas by driving away investment.’
And save the polar bears, too!
‘Right, but someone has to look after the planet.’ I said.
‘Yes, and I’m well aware that someone is you, but until you find an alternative that actually works…?’
‘My Tesla works!’ I said. I mean, I just couldn’t let him say nothing green ever works.
‘Yes, your Tesla. And so affordable! If only people had shorted windmill stocks they could all own one.’
Okay, he had a point. It was double the cost of most other cars, treble if you counted the solar panels that weren’t going to be as profitable as I’d hoped. But I did stifle a laugh. Windmills were a disaster, and after learning the facts I was never taking up the windmill argument again!
‘Right. point taken. But surely… in light of the current situation…
'Surely not. Even as recently as two weeks ago, when the Biden administration was scrounging around for all the natural gas they could find to send to the E.U., the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission made it clear that hurdles would get higher, not lower, so I’m sorry my dear, this isn’t about Russia. The U.S. gas average was $2.46 when Mr Biden was elected and it is $4.19 today and that same president, working in tandem with your clients, made it clear that he intended to be an energetic advocate against oil, coal, and natural gas.’
‘So what’s my play then? I mean, given my work, and my clients?’
‘I’d say same as it ever was. Ukraine is not your client.’
‘What does that mean?’
‘Jennifer, you started this conversation telling me that higher gas prices were helping Ukraine, but inexplicably, President Biden asked Russia and OPEC for more oil. Which goes directly against his claim of less dependence on fossil fuels... so you tell me.'
Sometimes it's lonely out here in the woods.
‘Well I can’t just abandon the planet! We have to at least try.’ I said rather more loudly than I meant.
‘So perhaps try a little less. Take a tip from Germany. It was that rush to green-the-grid that kept them from diversifying their energy sources. Europeans in particular became dependent on Russia—now getting 40 percent of their natural gas from them. And that is why European leaders told Biden they will not cut off imports of Russian oil.’
‘Daddy, I’m listening. But you know my position. I can’t just tell my clients we are to blame.’
‘Then don’t. Blame speed. Preach prudence.’
‘Tell them we just have to slow down? And keep burning fossil fuels in the interim? That’s my pitch?’
Yes. Because if we need energy, and we do, we can’t just keep building bike lanes and imagine a corresponding drop in energy will happen. If you need an average of 1,000 calories in a day, and I make it difficult for you to find 800 of those calories, does that mean you are happy with just 200 calories?’
‘No. But the idea was to find 800 green calories instead of carbon calories.’
‘But all you really did was make it harder and more expensive to find all calories. And now you are buying from your enemies. You didn’t make yourself not hungry.’
He had me there. ‘This is depressing,' I replied. 'It's not what I want to market to my clients. But, to be sure, I can definitely say that the problems didn’t begin with Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, right? Or Biden’s embargo against American and Canadian energy?'
‘Correct. Even though the very first thing he did was shut down my Keystone Pipeline. So why not just talk about balance—wisely using fossil fuels until you have another solution.’
‘I can’t do that.’
‘Oh I think you can," he said, pouring himself another drink. 'There’s nothing you green-niks like better than a good spanking.’