UK Coalition on Energy: Dumb and Dumber

The Conservatives may be on the bridge, but are the anti-fossil fuel, Lib Dem greenies steering the course?

This man looks like he knows what he's talking about - no?
Peter C. Glover
On 28 May 2012 10:17

UK Energy plc is not in the best of hands. Quite honestly, the Muppets could have come up with a more coherent script than that contained in the coalition’s new energy bill.

With investor interest in developing North Sea oil and gas fields running at an all-time high, and parts of the UK onshore and offshore sitting on potentially world class shale gas reserves, it beggars belief that David Cameron’s coalition partners could end up presenting UK energy as a bad news story.

Somehow they managed it.

Faced with a choice of looking across the English Channel to Europe or across the Atlantic to the United States to see how best energy is ‘done’, the new UK draft energy bill has ‘sponsored by Brussels’ stamped all over it. In short, the bill prioritises nuclear power and renewables overlooking what actually drives the economy (and will for decades): fossil fuels, especially shale gas. While nuclear is important in the mix, the UK would benefit greatly by extending the life of existing power stations – were it not for the pointless obsession of meeting EU emission targets. And, in electricity generation terms, wind and solar are just ‘kids’ stuff’: overly-expensive kids’ stuff at that.

In socialist Europe, centralized energy controls have stymied shale gas development through crassly stupid fracking bans and swathes of greens taxes and subsidy regimes which have greatly increased fuel poverty via some of the highest electricity prices in the world. Over in the States, despite President Obama’s centralizing socialist ambitions that saw him derail the Keystone Pipeline project, America’s more free market energy industry is currently transforming the entire face of US energy. The US shale revolution has already halved gas prices with the switch to gas more generally fuelling a manufacturing revival, including an estimated one million associated new jobs.  

A no brainer? Not it seems for the UK coalition. The architect of the UK’s reversal of economic fortunes in the 1980s, partly via energy deregulation, Lord Nigel Lawson, neatly sums up the philosophy of the new bill. Now Chairman of the Global Warming Policy Foundation (GWPF), Lawson warns: “The Energy Bill constitutes a disastrous move towards a centrally planned energy economy with a high level of control over which forms of energy generation will be favoured and which will be stifled. The government even seeks to regulate the prices and profits of energy generation.”  

GWPF Director, Dr Benny Peiser, adds, “At a time when most major economies are gradually returning to cheap and abundant fossil fuels, mainly in the form of coal and natural gas, Britain alone seems prepared to sacrifice its economic competitiveness and recovery by opting for the most expensive forms of energy.”

If creating a business climate attractive to the major investors currently buzzing around North Sea oil and gas and shale gas prospects was envisaged by the bills drafters, it has achieved the polar opposite.

As part of the consultation process, there was also the strange case of the ‘UK shale gas summit’ attended by David Cameron and energy secretary, Ed Davey. In the immediate aftermath, according to a report in The Independent, “senior coalition figures have agreed that shale gas has the potential to be deeply controversial without securing major benefits in lowering carbon emissions or reducing energy costs”. Let me translate: Whilst the UK may well be sitting on a huge domestic energy bonanza that could eclipse North Sea oil and gas, this would upset Eurocratic emission targets, not to mention a few NIMBY voters.  Try telling that to the Americans. Anyone in any doubt that market forces alone do not have the power to transform the world is simply not paying attention to America’s revitalized energy sector.

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