Burning fuel has always come at a high price to the planet. Are we finally seeing it now that it’s hitting our pockets?

With the UK’s energy price cap rising by 54% earlier this month, and fuel prices reaching their highest since 2008 last month, we ask – is paying more for our fuel actually a good thing?

Here at Water Powered Technologies, our fuel-less system – no petrol, no diesel, no electricity – moves water around for the benefit of people and the environment, but we know that the very vast majority of people and technologies rely on fuel of one kind or another to go about their day to day business – and for them, energy prices are rising steeply and swiftly.

This cost of living crisis will affect millions of households across the UK, and while some measures have been announced by the government that aim to help individuals bear these costs, we think it’s important to ask why we shouldn’t be shocked that our energy comes with a high price – and if, in fact, we could even bring ourselves to think of rising fuel prices as a good thing.

‘The game isn’t worth the candle’ – energy is now incredibly cheap

This old saying gives us an insight into a time where artificial light was a valuable commodity to be used with care, which ought to make us think about how much we take our fuel and energy for granted today. We have become very used to energy and fuel being basic commodities that are affordable for a majority of the population – but not so very long ago, energy was many times more expensive than it is now.

As an example, researchers Fourquet and Pearson show the extreme drop in the price of energy by exploring how much an hour’s worth of artificial light would have cost over the course of UK history. In 1300, when the main source of artificial light was tallow candles, the cost of 1 million lumen-hours would have been a staggering £40,000. In 1850, the price for the same amount was around £2500, dropping to £236 in 1900 – and in 2006, the same amount of light would have cost £2.67. That’s an absolutely incredible drop in the price of what we now see as a basic commodity.1

Crisis in Ukraine

However, while we hopefully won’t see a return to the prices of the olden days, costs are rising rapidly as a result of the ongoing crisis in Ukraine, where events and responses to them have thrown Europe’s high dependency on Russian oil and gas exports into a harsh light; over 40% of gas in the EU came from Russia in 2021. Governments across the EU and the world are reassessing their energy security, and while some sources report that the crisis will spur on the green revolution – like Italy, which is now completing its first offshore wind farm and has recently approved the construction of six new onshore wind farms – others suggest it will cause a backwards step, as some countries move towards liquefied natural gas (another fossil fuel), and several EU states are now opting to delay the phasing-out of coal fired power stations as a short term solution to a potential energy shortfall.2

Cost of Fuel and Energy Production

The carbon emitted in the process of manufacturing fossil fuels from their raw materials is already a driver of the climate crisis in itself. The sheer amount of infrastructure and outlay needed by the oil and gas industries to operate makes up 9% of human-produced greenhouse gases – which goes on top of the fuels they create producing a staggering 33% of global emissions.3 These industries are looking at ways to decarbonise their operations, but as long as consumption and reliance on these carbon-creating fuels remains at current levels, the cost to the planet will remain high.

So we shouldn’t necessarily be shocked that energy and fuel prices are so high in 2022 – but rather how might we look at this situation differently and what can we do to lessen our energy consumption?

Encourage the switch to greener solutions

As already mentioned, governments the world over are reassessing their energy security in light of the crisis, with encouraging signs of moving towards renewable and greener solutions for mass consumption. On a domestic, individual level, higher energy costs are encouraging people to move away from their reliance on expensive and polluting fuels, and make the switch to the ever-growing number of greener alternatives that are out there on the market. One such example is HVO – that’s hydro-treated vegetable oil – which can be used in standard boilers and multi-fuel appliances with a comparatively cheap conversion. This fuel is sustainable, often recovered from waste cooking oils, and is biodegradable. It’s a fantastic example of a quick switch and works incredibly well when other technologies above aren’t possible.

It’s also possible to deduct our consumption at source. Electric vehicles and energy efficient buildings – for example, those built to Passivhaus standards, or use air or ground source solutions – drastically reduce the need to buy and burn fuel that would otherwise be used for transport and heating.

Mindful Energy Consumption

However, making these changes to our homes and vehicles can come with a significant cost – for many of us it’s not as simple as buying an expensive new low emissions car or spending hundred or thousands upgrading our homes’ heating and insulation. Nevertheless, these higher costs encourage us to be more thoughtful about how much energy we use and make small changes where we’re able to lessen our consumption. Although these points are so well worn they’ll be instantly familiar, in our homes and workplaces we can continue to make the effort to be more mindful about leaving lights or appliances on, investing in energy efficient appliances, or starting to opt to take a walk/bus/bike to your destination rather than driving.

Changing your thermostat can also have a significant effect – particularly if we all pull together. The International Energy Agency has encouraged Europeans to turn their thermostats down by 1 degree, which could save the consumption of 33 billion cubic metres of gas per year in Europe.4 In the UK, doing this could also save each household up to £80 a year, where over 20 million homes have the heating above 20 degrees, and an estimated two million homes are shockingly heated to warmer temperatures than Lanzarote.5


Although it’s hard to cast the energy and fuel price rises we are seeing in a positive light, this situation does give us pause for thought about our energy sources and consumption. Technological expansion and development have meant that humans have been able to create vast amounts of fuel and energy more efficiently, driving prices down and innovation forward. However, while we have taken cheap energy and fuel largely for granted, it’s important to remember that this wasn’t always the case, and while we are currently seeing an unpleasant spike in price, many areas and populations of the world today still don’t have the same access to fuel and resources as most Western countries. In this light, it’s a global responsibility to solve the energy crisis quickly and sustainably for all.

When it’s hitting us as individual consumers in the pocket, rather than as a more abstract level of “the planet,” we tend to think a bit harder about our fuel and energy consumption than we otherwise might. Being worried about how we’ll financially pay for our energy on an individual level certainly brings home the scale and urgency of the climate crisis we are facing as a global civilisation. While what the fuel costs us personally is likely to be at the top of our minds, we should also be thinking about what our use of energy and fuels costs the planet and future generations.