Melanie Phillips

17 October 2011

UK Cabinet power struggle over Huhne's unhealthy emissions

Published in: Daily Mail

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While the Westminster village is preoccupied with scandals and reshuffles, the real scandal concerns the minister who remains so far unshuffled and is thus still promoting policies that threaten to cripple the British economy through eye-wateringly absurd deep green zealotry. Today, Britain’s Energy and Climate Change Secretary Chris Huhne is due to co-chair with the Prime Minister an energy summit which is billed as announcing proposals to keep energy prices down.

Well might you scratch your head. Surely, green strategy is actually to force energy prices up, in order to diminish the use of fossil fuels which make more carbon dioxide which makes more anthropogenic global warming and thus will cause the imminent apocalypse which will destroy the planet, a terminal catastrophe which is now totally inevitable and unavoidable and inescapable (except of course for the green policies that will avoid the unavoidable, thus keeping AGW activists in gainful employment saving the planet in perpetuity).

Alas, the greens’ relationship with logic is surpassed only by their relationship with principle. For as Danny Fortson said in yesterday’s Sunday Times, with the British public becoming more and more furious at the crippling hike in fuel prices caused by green ideology, the said green ideologues are all running for cover.  As Left Foot Forward reports, despite the fact that few have done more than Friends of the Earth to make using energy more difficult for poorer people in the UK, FoE said it was ‘outrageous’ that energy fat cats were raking in the profits while people face ‘rocketing’ bills and ‘shiver in cold homes’.

Ah yes, those wicked energy multinationals – wicked for making it too easy for people to do evil things like keep warm and run their businesses and thus destroy the planet, and now wicked for making it too damned difficult for people to do vital things like keep warm and run their businesses -- and thus, er, destroy the planet?

But here’s the next totally mad thing. There’s actually great news on the energy front– the discovery that the UK is sitting on a vast and hitherto unknown store of cheap natural gas in the form of shale. Last month, the drilling company Cuadrilla Resources announced that it had discovered an estimated 200 trillion cubic feet of shale gas under a small patch of land in the north-west of England. This may turn out to be one of the biggest gas finds in the past decade. What’s more, according to the British Geological Survey, shale gas resources under the North Sea could dwarf on-shore supplies.

And yet there is one person in Britain who is not cheering this discovery. How did you guess? Yup, step forward the Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change. As Benny Peiser writes:

‘But whether or not the coalition government will give the green light to what appears to become a veritable energy revolution depends to a large extend on Huhne’s ill-famed objections against a new dash for cheap gas.

‘The reason for his opposition is not difficult to grasp. The discovery of vast unconventional gas reserves beneath Lancashire is likely to undermine Britain's renewable energy sector.  In sharp contrast to government targets or costly subsidies, the shale revolution could create a whole new energy industry that would generate billions of much needed revenue and thousands of real jobs.

‘...At the Liberal Democrat party conference in Birmingham last week [Huhne] promised to halt a new ‘dash for gas’ because it would undermine the UK's unilateral climate targets. Huhne’s main concern, however, is not CO2 targets that could be met quite adequately if Britain were to switch from coal-fired to gas-fired power generation. His real apprehension is that if a significant amount of cheap shale gas were to enter the UK market, it would almost certainly deter investment in expensive renewables.

‘In order to stifle the emergence of a cheap energy market and to shield expensive renewables, DECC's energy bill would force UK families and businesses to subsidise renewable energy by approximately £120bn in the next 20 years. Electricity prices would likely double as a result.’

Reportedly the chancellor George Osborne – who told the Tory party conference last month that Britain would slow down its cuts in carbon emissions because

‘we’re not going to save the planet by putting our country out of business’ –

is squaring up for battle with Huhne over green policies. If the Chancellor really means what he says, it is Huhne who has to be put out of business and all his emissions curbed.

About Melanie

Melanie Phillips is a British journalist and author. She is best known for her controversial column about political and social issues which currently appears in the Daily Mail. Awarded the Orwell Prize for journalism in 1996, she is the author of All Must Have Prizes, an acclaimed study of Britain's educational and moral crisis, which provoked the fury of educationists and the delight and relief of parents.

Read full biography


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Melanie Phillips
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