Category Archives: brexit

Labour MP Natascha Engel’s Views on Fracking

With the Labour Party being anti-fracking  ( and by implication in favour of importing higher GHG emission fracked gas from the USA) , here are some wise comments on fracking from a Labour MP in Derbyshire.There is little to disagree with her apart from quibbles.

Congratulations to her and a pity that more aren’t as rigorous.

Image may contain: 4 people, people standing and outdoor

Source: Natascha Engel’s Views on Fracking

 

Natascha Engel’s Views on Fracking

With the calling of the snap General Election, I wanted to try and set out in detail my position on fracking as a whole and the INEOS application for an exploratory well at Bramleymoor Farm in Marsh Lane in particular.

These are my own personal views which I have arrived at after a great deal of research. These views are not shared by the Labour Party nor local Labour councillors.

There has been a lot of pressure with the general election on June 8 for me to campaign to ban fracking. It would have been an easy campaign to justify and may well be a vote-winner. But those of you who know me also know that I stand by my principles and would never campaign for something I don’t believe in. I have always put my constituents’ well-being above all else and would never support anything that I thought was unsafe.

Since hearing of the possibility of fracking in North East Derbyshire, like many of you, I have immersed myself in the subject. I have read reports and talked to campaigners against fracking, the industry, experts, and academics on shale, geology and energy.

I have had several meetings with the Energy Minister who is responsible for shale to discuss my concerns and spent much of Easter travelling around North Yorkshire, Lancashire and Cheshire looking at the sites where fracking is due to take place as well as some of the existing oil and gas wells that are dotted around the country.

 MY CONCERNS

Lorry movements: My chief concern about the Bramleymoor Farm application is lorry movements. The route through Coal Aston will need to be looked at again both for residential parking, safety for people on pavements, traffic blackspots like at Snowdon Lane, HGVs managing the little roundabout towards the petrol station and garden centres. I am also worried about the number of lorries and the times of day they will be passing through.

Proximity to housing: I have also been talking to INEOS about how close the site is to the nearest residential houses and how noise and light pollution can best be reduced and kept to a minimum to make sure that those people who are worst affected are best compensated.

 PLANNING PROCESS

The government regards shale as an important potential industry and they are keen to see if there is enough of the right sort of shale in the UK to make it viable. If it comes off in the amounts that they hope, then this would lead to a huge tax take for them – in fact the government hopes that it will go some way to funding health and social care.

This means that the government has gone a long way to make sure that shale exploration will take place. They have done two things. They have made the planning framework for a shale application far more rigorous than any other conventional oil and gas application, but, once those planning requirements have been met, then if a council rejects an application it is called in by the Secretary of State who will almost certainly overturn the decision.

 DISRUPTION, SAFETY, HEALTH AND HOUSE PRICES

I know how upset and worried some people are about fracking especially about health, safety, house prices and security. From visiting sites, speaking to engineers and public health experts, I have not heard, seen or read anything that convinces me that shale exploration is any more or less safe than conventional oil and gas drilling.

Hydraulic fracturing (fracking) is a technique that has been used since the late 1940s to extract conventional oil and gas. We have had thousands of onshore oil and gas wells drilled over the decades (some of which have been fracked) and currently have over 200 wells around the country pumping quietly away with little or no concern to local residents.

There will, without a doubt, be significant disruption during the building phase of a shale site during the clearing, rig building and initial fracking phases, and there will be more than usual heavy lorry movements carrying water and aggregate. This is the part of the development that I have most concerns about and is the subject that I am in close communication with INEOS on.

But the disruption caused by the building and drilling phase is the same as with any large build project, whether it’s industrial, a new school or a new supermarket – and in the case of a supermarket, the increased lorry movements will continue throughout the life-time of the supermarket and there will be no compensation paid to locally-affected residents.

 THE WATER TABLE AND OLD MINESHAFTS

The other real concern that people have raised is over the water table, drinking water and the potential risk to disused pits and mineshafts. Again, this is something that we have to keep a close eye on but the regulations covering fracking are extremely tight and the planning conditions have been strengthened over the years.

It means that 3D seismic testing has to take place to find fault-lines or disused mineshafts before anyone can frack, and baseline testing has to have been carried out a year before fracking happens so that any changes in the soil, water or air are immediately noticed and drilling is stopped. These conditions are far more rigorous than any conditions the construction industry has to meet.

From what I have seen, the independent engineers I have spoken to at the Royal Society for Civil Engineers and the British Geological Survey, the casing of a shale pipe through the water table has to be three steel tubes, each injected with a layer of cement. The chance of any contamination of the water table from shale extraction in this country is almost impossible.

 RELIABLE INFORMATION

One of the biggest problems about shale exploration that I came across was that no-one knows where to get trustworthy advice or facts about fracking – what it actually entails and what the risks are. There is a lot of information on the internet and much of it is either not relevant to the UK or just plain scaremongering.

There is the industry on the one side which people don’t trust because they have a vested financial interest in downplaying any risks, and on the other side are the green campaign groups for whom anti-fracking campaigns have seen an enormous boost in donations and membership. They have a different agenda which is to see the country de-industrialise.

 PROTECTING THE ENVIRONMENT

I totally agree with the green campaigners who make the case for more investment in renewables and winding down our reliance on fossil fuels. We should be doing far more to encourage wind, solar and water energy generation as well as putting more money into researching carbon capture and storage.

But spreading scare stories for which there is no reliable evidence about increases in cancer rates and low-birth-weight babies is unforgiveable. I have not seen credible evidence to support this and it should have no place in the debate about energy, climate change and shale.

While I agree that we should do all we can to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions, I do not believe in de-industrialisation. Most people (including me) want to come home after work, switch on the lights, turn on the heating, run a hot bath and cook meals on their hobs.

Most people would rather pay less for utility bills and many people are also concerned for the environment and would rather have less pollution and lower greenhouse gas emissions.

But the fact is that at the moment only 7% of the energy we use comes from renewables such as wind and solar. The rest comes from gas and oil. A decreasing amount comes from our domestic wells in the North Sea, but increasingly we are importing shale gas from America and Liquid Natural Gas (LNG) from Qatar. As we become more reliant on imports, we can expect our energy bills to rise even higher.

And if our concern is reducing global greenhouse gas emissions then we ought to start calculating the real carbon footprint of importing oil and gas. We know working conditions are bordering on slavery in Qatar and health and safety regulations are almost non-existent with spillages, accidents and gas escaping into the atmosphere commonplace.

Once the gas is captured, it has to be frozen to liquefy it and put onto hugelypolluting diesel ships to transport to the UK where it is re-gassified and pumped into our domestic network. Each of those steps has a very large carbon footprint which would be avoided if we took shale out of the ground here.

From a green perspective, investment in renewables is essential. But gas will still have a role to play for the foreseeable future and we might as well make it as low-carbon as we can, controlling it better, and getting our domestic energy prices down. This will be especially important after Brexit.

 JOBS AND INDUSTRY

Energy is something which Derbyshire is expert in with its proud coal mining history and mineral richness. It seems that beneath our feet could be another large-scale manufacturing industry that is nowhere near as dangerous as sending people down deep mines. If the shale industry develops in the UK, it would use some of the most advanced civil and petro-chemical engineering technologies in the world and could create a whole new generation of jobs for our children and grandchildren.

In Danesmoor near Clay Cross, we already have the country’s best rig-building company being used by the industry all over the country. They are struggling at the moment with protesters chaining themselves to the factory gates. But if this industry comes off, we could see a massive expansion creating many more jobs in Danesmoor alone.

If, on the other hand, we allow the protesters to stop the company from supplying rigs, the opposite will happen. The jobs that exist in Danesmoor today will not be there tomorrow.

As a former trade union organiser, I am proud that the UK has the strictest Health and Safety regulations in the world. It means that the kind of gung-ho drilling and spillages that have happened in America are simply not allowed to happen here.

Our planning regime is extremely rigorous and our environmental laws so tight that the industry is constantly complaining about the hoops through which they have to jump. Quite right too. This, of course, does not mean that accidents can’t happen. It just means that the risk is minimal and the penalties great.

 MINIMISING RISKS

I appreciate that people ask why they have to put up with the disruption. We should look carefully at every application to make sure that drilling and fracking happens away from homes and in the remotest places with the least disruption possible. We should certainly not have wells covering every inch of our beautiful countryside.

Many people say that even a small risk is a risk too far. If this is how we lived our lives, we would have no development of any kind. It is about making sure any development is safe. We need an army of inspectors and environmental protection officers to keep a careful and constant eye on the industry to keep it safe.

I am not against fracking as long as the industry stays highly regulated and controlled. If taking shale out of the ground in the UK means that we have fewer greenhouse gas emissions, that we can control our own energy and get prices down because we are not importing it, if it creates a whole new industry with good jobs, if it is good for Derbyshire, then I support it.

Our next step has to be setting up a strong Community Liaison Group to negotiate with INEOS on lorry routes and times, on making sure that noise and light pollution are kept to a minimum and that individuals and the community are properly compensated.

Marsh Lane and Apperknowle need a bus service to Sheffield and Chesterfield. Let’s see if we can get a shale bus from the industry. And if fracking does actually happen, let’s ask for free energy for all homes within a certain radius. That would increase house prices and certainly reduce bills. Let’s see if INEOS can work with Eckington School (which has an engineering specialism), or pay for local people to train as lorry drivers.

If shale exploration is going to happen, let’s make sure that we get the most out of it.

I hope this will start a proper debate on shale exploration in which everyone can raise their issues and concerns. It has been very one-sided until now so I am looking forward to hearing your views on this and everything else!

All good wishes as always

NATASCHA ENGEL

Labour Party Parliamentary candidate

tel: 01246 439121 twitter: @nengel2017 email:natascha_engel@labour.org.uk

The Left is collapsing everywhere

Dan Hannan is a Conservate Brexit MEP, which won’t endear him to some and most ofus will be to the left of him. Here he disucsses the weakness of the Left both in Europe and America. He tweeted today

The mainstream Left is in collapse across the Western world. That should worry us. My column.

It is a concern for all as the choice will be Centre Right or Far Right with the shadowy ill-defined Alt-right creeping in. Dan seems to realise we need a good sound left wing – presumably to keep the Right in order.

 

Here’s a startling fact: There have been eight leaders of the British Labour Party in the past 40 years. Seven of them failed to win a single general election. The exception, Tony Blair, was a Labour politician only in the most technical sense. Leftists saw him as a disguised conservative, a cuckoo in the nest. To this day, Labour activists use Blairite as the worst of insults, viler even than Tory. Let’s widen the camera shot a little. All over Europe, traditional parties of the Center-Left have been losing badly. As I write, opinion polls show the French Socialists in fourth place, the Dutch Labour Party in seventh. Greece’s PASOK, the leading party since the early 1980s, is now polling at 7 percent. Spain’s PSOE, which had a comfortable majority as recently as 10 years ago, has been displaced by the more radical Podemos. Social Democrats in former communist countries, such as Poland and Hungary, have, if anything, fared even worse.

Source: The Left is collapsing everywhere

Donald Trump Is The First President To Turn Postmodernism Against Itself

For a longg time I have reckoned Postmodernism is a dead end as it ultimately denies the reality of anything and totally relativises history and science so that one ulimately cannot say creationism is more wrong than evolutionary science.

as Dawkins said “you cannot be a post-modernist at 36000ft” with the cabin door open.

So much of modern discourse leans to Post-modernism with the “science” behind Anti-vaxxers, anti-GMO, anti-fracking , climate change deniers etc.

Maybe Trump will be remembered by philospjers as the first Post-post-modernist!

There is much between the lines here

 

 

No one should be surprised that postmodern America chose an antihero to be our next president. Donald Trump is postmodernism embodied.

Source: Donald Trump Is The First President To Turn Postmodernism Against Itself

FAKE NEWS AND THE GREEN MOVEMENT

We hear much about fake news at present and how it influenced both the Brexit vote and the Presidential election.

Fake news is prevalent and is common both among climate change deniers (the extreme one) and what Owen Pattison in his only wise comment on the environment called the Green Blob. Fake News is rife among ideological Greens, especially Greenpeace, Friends of the Earth , anti-fracking groups and all the KIITG (Keep it in the ground) palaver. As a Christian it offends me that it has become the quasi-official view of Christian greens. much of whose stuff is fakenews. (They are good on tips for green living – but some of us have been doing that for decades, OK on local projects, but on big issues like energy, fracking and climate change they go fake.)

As Ken who puts in detailed complaints to the ASA on anti-fracking groups says “I do not know of any valid science in the anti frack rhetoric. Bullshit from start to finish, as I have shown with Frack Free Somerset, RAFF, Frack Free Alliance. Breast Cancer UK, and perhaps with FoE.” several of these forensic complaints can be found elsewhere on my blog

I could include Creationism as fake news as it is equally spurious, but is of more marginal importance

Here the ever-perceptive Nick Grealy makes some very good points and thus I asked him if I could nick his blog. I share his view that all this is destroying the environmental movement as once anyone starts to check out this green fakery with intellectual honesty, they will finds flaws galore and soon get disillusioned. It is like the boy who cried wolf.

 

wolf

As that boy discovered to his horror a wolf came and attacked the sheep and nobody took any notice of him until it was too late

wolf2

and so, if we are not careful the big bad wolf of environmental degradation will jump out and destroy our world. We will have to thank all those green groups if it happens

I do wish the Green Blog would stop crying “Wolf” and get on with caring for our planet instead of pushed their pseudo-green scare-mongering ideology ideology

 

GO FLY A KIITG:DID KEEP IT IN THE GROUND, FALSE BALANCE AND FAKE NEWS BURY THE ENVIRONMENTAL MOVEMENT?

http://www.reimaginegas.com/?p=3884#more-3884

The nomination of Scott Pruitt has rightly caused much gnashing of teeth at sites like Climate Home.

Green groups reacted with bitter hostility calling Pruitt a “fossil fuel industry puppet” (350.org), “an arsonist in charge of fighting fires (Sierra Club) and “destined for the environmental hall of shame” (NRDC).

But how exactly did Pruitt – and us – get to this position?  All three of the above organisations fought Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama’s all of the above energy plan because it promoted the use of of natural gas alongside nuclear, efficiency and renewable. The Sierra Club, is the oldest environmental organisation in the US (1892) and has 2.4 million members today.  Yet their Beyond Natural Gas campaign doesn’t have any actual plans, simply a whole bunch of feelings.  A large part of the anti fracking movement narrative depends on  fake news, just as reprehensible coming from the green left as from the right:

Natural gas drillers exploit government loopholes, ignore decades-old environmental protections, and disregard the health of entire communities. “Fracking,” a violent process that dislodges gas deposits from shale rock formations, is known to contaminate drinking water, pollute the air, and cause earthquakes. If drillers can’t extract natural gas without destroying landscapes and endangering the health of families, then we should not drill for natural gas.

Yes this is the same Sierra Club who once took money from Aubrey McClendon’s American Clean Skies. They still take money from Michael Bloomberg for the end coal campaign, even though Bloomberg doesn’t agree with them at all on natural gas.

To keep coal-fired power plants in upstate New York and not frack doesn’t make any sense at all.

We also have Bill McKibben of 350 in 2009

On March 2, environmentalist Bill McKibben joined demonstrators who marched on a coal-fired power plant in Washington D.C. In this article for Yale Environment 360, he explains why he was ready to go to jail to protest the continued burning of coal.

What caused environmental organisations to change their mind about natural gas is one of the mysteries of the age.  Much blame can be found in the intersection of the social media echo chamber where the Tea Party met the Fake News movement and produced the Post Truth Era.  This is the Wikipedia definition, and they at least thanks to donations like mine and I hope yours, are one of the few remaining on line oases of sanity:

Post-truth politics (also called post-factual politics) is a political culture in which debate is framed largely by appeals to emotion disconnected from the details of policy, and by the repeated assertion of talking points to which factual rebuttals are ignored. Post-truth differs from traditional contesting and falsifying of truth by rendering it of “secondary” importance. While this has been described as a contemporary problem, there is a possibility that it has long been a part of political life, but was less notable before the advent of the internet. In the novel Nineteen Eighty-Four George Orwell cast a world in which the state is daily changing historic records to fit its propaganda goals of the day. Orwell is said to have based much of his criticism of this on Soviet Russian practices.

The contemporary origin of the term is attributed to blogger David Roberts who used the term in 2010 in a column for Grist.[1][2][3] Political commentators have identified post-truth politics as ascendant in Russian, Chinese, American, Australian, British, Indian, Japanese and Turkish politics, as well as in other areas of debate, driven by a combination of the 24-hour news cyclefalse balance in news reporting, and the increasing ubiquity of social media.[3][4][5][6][7][8] In 2016, “post-truth” was chosen as the Oxford Dictionaries Word of the Year,[9] due to its prevalence in the context of that year’s Brexit referendum and US presidential election.[10][11]

Tea Party, Green Tea Party, Brexit and Trump were all enabled by two key trends in what was previously called the Main Stream Media.

One is the financial catastrophe that hit newspapers and TV networks as they lose advertising and eyeballs.  But especially in the UK, where luckily , to  my progressive lefty opinion at least, we have the BBC, there was another force present.  We saw the trend  in the UK on first the fracking debate, and secondly the EU referendum debate. The second problem is  false balance. The BBC’s great strength in the main stream media era was that as a public broadcaster they were required to have a neutral stance and reflect a variety of opinion.  I’m happy to concede here that the neutrality does not often extend to the climate debate, but that isn’t the issue here. This from Open Democracy gives a summary of the problem:

There is now widespread agreement that the BBC failed the nation by botching its coverage of the referendum. Viewers and listeners seeking information were instead bombarded with contradictory and impenetrable claims and counter-claims. As a result, many ended up confused, frustrated and sometimes unsure how to cast their votes. BBC representatives have half-admitted that this was so, but have offered an excuse.

It’s worth underlining that the UK shale gas is “controversial” meme stems from giving a platform to all views. Let me make clear, all views should be represented, but at the same time, this result from the Referendum campaign could also describe much of the fracking “debate”. Simply substitute  “campaigners” for politicians:

One effect of this approach was to draw politicians (anti -fracking campaigners) into making ever more extravagant and less well founded claims. It therefore actually reinforced both the opacity and the mendacity of the campaign. Attention had to be concentrated on the often trivial or diversionary assertions of campaigners instead of the real issues.

So in the interests of either balance, or simply to create an interesting twist on the very boring subject of natural gas supply,  a very small minority were given a platform far bigger than votes would otherwise have allowed.  The Lancashire Nana Tina Rothery for example got 3.8% of the vote when she stood for election.  The UK Green Party, which cost Lib Dems previously safe seats throughout the UK, thus destroyed the Lib Dam/Conservative coalition got the same percentage nationally.  They thus set the stage for the Brexit Referendum.

Nowhere in the UK, including Lancashire, London or Yorkshire, do actual hard core opponents of shale number more than a tiny percentage.  Yet eccentrics such as Gayzer Frackman, who also believes in chemtrails, or 9/11 conspiracy “theorists” like Ian R Crane are given platforms for public debate that would make anyone who knows little about the subject think they are credible.   This “balanced” “debate” where the eccentric or just plain cuckoo are given equal weight to thousands of mainstream energy experts confuses, not informs.

The false balance  about fracking is one in which even the UK government colludes, if accidentally, by giving  the choice as one between fracking or renewables as the DECC/BEIS opinion polltrackers insist on presenting.  Renewables always win and if it was a true choice, with a gun to my head, I’d  choose renewables too. Going against wind or solar of the oil industry is a false choice. The reality is that it’s BOTH. To pretend otherwise  is false balance.

False balance can sometimes originate from similar motives as sensationalism, where producers and editors may feel that a story portrayed as a contentious debate will be more commercially successful than a more accurate account of the issue. However, unlike most other media biases, false balance may actually stem from an attempt to avoid bias; producers and editors may confuse treating competing views fairly—i.e., in proportion to their actual merits and significance—with treating them equally, giving them equal time to present their views even when those views may be known beforehand to be based on false information

Fracking in the UK is continually described as “controversial”, despite it only being so to a tiny minority. The all of the above option is notably absent in the fracking debate.  June 23rd showed how binary choices, presented in an emotional  post truth  feeling over fact debate, have not helped democracy, but subverted it.

No where is this more true than the Keep It In The Ground (KIITG) movement, which was given  initial credence by the UK Guardian newspaper.

Interestingly, several present and previous Guardian journalists have told me privately that they were horrified by the KIITG campaign.  Since the departure of Alan Rusbridger the editor at the time, it often , but not often enough, seems to have disappeared – along with 250  jobs.

Rusbridger and Murdoch have similar sorts of motivations: both men have used money-losing papers in pursuit of political beliefs – and in so doing, as each would argue about the other, placed politics above journalism.

It’s clear now that the Keep It In The Ground campaign has failed.  Trump and Brexit showed how post truth triumphed.  The UK anti fracking campaign that is centred on Adam Vaughan of the Guardian may have slowed things down, but certainly not triumphed.

The folks at Climate Home, 350, and Keep It In The Ground got to where they are today in large part by rejecting any pragmatism for the role of natural gas – again a fuel they fully supported when the debate was about facts not feelings, science not emotion.  This is the  “extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice” meme that went from Cicero to Goldwater to Malcolm X and now apparently resides both in Trumpism and radical anti frackers.

I fear that some of the Keep It In The Ground tendency will take the wrong conclusion.  They, somewhat like the UK Labour Party under Corbyn, feel that the only reason they failed was due to not being extreme enough in their policies.

Just as Corbyn will take the left down with him, environmentalist extremists won’t learn lessons.  That would be devastating for the environment, but devastating for democracy too.  We need a new centre for a new world, in both politics and environment, before we end up with neither.  We’re standing on the edge of an abyss. What the answer is I don’t know but we have to realise where we stand and how we got there.  This from Michael Lewis in the FT is depressing and instructive, but only if the Green movement engages in some self criticism and learns from the new world:

(Trump’s) rise to power, in this sense, marks the triumph of the irrational in US politics.

“Every which way, Trump is exploiting the faulty mechanisms in people’s minds,” …. “It feels like we are in a world where, to me, some meaningful part of the electorate is beyond reasoning with — beyond fact, anti-science. All the mental faculties that lead to human progress, they are opposed to.”

Faulty mechanisms are in everyone’s minds, not just Trump’s and Farage’s, but in Alan Rusbridger’s too.  It’s time to abandon outdated concepts before they drag everyone down.

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Eight basic laws of physics, and one that isn’t

The dangers of Government ministers being clueless about science. They then make decisions about education and technology.

Primate's Progress

Reposted from 3 Quarks Daily:

GodfreyKneller-IsaacNewton-1689 Isaac Newton, 1689

Michael Gove (remember him?), when England’s Secretary of State for Education, told teachers

“What [students] need is a rooting in the basic scientific principles, Newton’s Laws of thermodynamics and Boyle’s law.”

Never have I seen so many major errors expressed in so few words. But the wise learn from everyone, [1] so let us see what we can learn here from Gove.

From the top: Newton’s laws. Gove most probably meant Newton’s Laws of Motion, but he may also have been thinking of Newton’s Law (note singular) of Gravity. It was by combining all four of these that Newton explained the hitherto mysterious phenomena of lunar and planetary motion, and related these to the motion of falling bodies on Earth; an intellectual achievement not equalled until Einstein’s General Theory of Relativity.

GoveTelegraphhaswarned Michael Gove, 2013

In Newton’s physics, the laws of…

View original post 2,351 more words

New British government: a step forward for climate strategy

The Government has come under harsh criticism from green NGOS eg FoE and the Green Party for getting rid of DECC. Here Stephen Tindale, formerly of Greenpeace argues that it is a “step forward”.

Like anything Stephen writes it is challenging to all sides, but he always makes one think.

 

( I copied this without permission but full acknowledgement!)

 

New British government: a step forward for climate

http://climateanswers.info/2016/07/15-july-2016-new-british-government-a-step-forward-for-climate-strategy/ 

 

The UK no longer has a department with the words ‘climate change’ in its title. Climate policy is now the responsibility of a new Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy. This could be seen as a downgrading of climate action – and has been condemned by some green groups. But I think it is a step forward.

The Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) was created by Gordon Brown in 2008, with Ed Miliband as its first Secretary of State. Before 2008 energy had been the responsibility of the Department of Trade and Industry, and climate change dealt with by the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra). So different parts of the ‘energy trilemma’ – economic, social and environmental – were in different departments. The economic argument usually trumped the decarbonisation debate. The social part tended to get overlooked.

Before yesterday’s reshuffle there was some speculation that prime minister May would return to this arrangement. She has not, which is a relief. Defra is not a powerful department within Whitehall. Andrea Leadsom, the new Defra secretary, is not a strong champion of decarbonisation (though not opposed, as her record as a minister at DECC demonstrates). She is too wedded to deregulation to deliver strong climate action. Moreover, climate change is not just an environmental issue: it affects health, the economy, foreign policy and much more.

DECC was also not a strong Whitehall department. Its first two years, under Ed Miliband, saw the passing of the UK Climate Change Act (though, to be fair, this had been initiated by David Miliband when he was Defra secretary), a Feed In Tariff for small scale renewables and a raft of sensible strategies. Then came the coalition, with the Lib Dems running DECC. David Cameron went to the DECC building on his first day in office and promised “the greenest government ever”. In terms of clean energy, Cameron delivered – at least while in coalition with the Lib Dems. Installed UK renewable capacity nearly tripled between 2010 and 2015.

However, many Tories came to resent DECC as ‘a Lib Dem fiefdom’. Chris Huhne, DECC secretary in the first years of the coalition, fought many battles with Tory Chancellor George Osborne, winning some but losing most. His successor Ed Davey took a less confrontational approach; his main political problem was the promise by Ed Miliband, by then Labour leader in opposition, to freeze energy bills if he became prime minister – leading Cameron, a previous supporter of decarbonisation, to try to ‘cut the green crap’.

After the 2015 general election, Tory DECC secretary Amber Rudd reduced renewables subsidies. This was justifiable, given falls in costs, but was done too fast. The Treasury under Osborne was putting substantial pressure on DECC to cut subsidies. Not to meet austerity targets – subsidies come from fuel tariffs not taxes so do not increase government debt. Not due to concern about fuel poverty. (If Osborne had such concern, he hid it very effectively.) The pressure was partly due to the wish to reduce industrial energy costs to improve competitiveness, and partly an ideological desire to have less intervention in the market. Meanhwhile DECC’s staff numbers were slashed, and many of the best officials left.

Greg Clark is less neoliberal than Osborne was. He is clearly on the left of the Conservative party; indeed he was a Social Democrat activist while at university. He was an effective shadow DECC secretary before 2010, taking a pragmatic approach and being willing to listen and learn. Clark’s new department is in charge of industrial strategy. Lib Dem Vince Cable spoke about industrial strategy when he was running the business department 2010-15, but his Tory successor Sajid Javid did not, wanting to leave pretty much everything to the market. An industrial strategy is necessary in order to deliver decarbonisation. If one thinks that names of departments matter (which I don’t particularly), having industrial strategy in the name of a strong department is more important than having climate change in the name of a weak one.

However, the new business department will only succeed if it is supported by those at the top of government. Theresa May has not been much involved in climate discussions: there is no great overlap with her previous portfolio of home affairs. But Carbon Brief has helpfully found two quotes.

In July 2006 she said:

“I welcome that the Government has responded to cross-party pressure to make it easier for homes in Maidenhead [May’s constituency] and across the country to install renewable energy like solar panels or mini-wind turbines. Where the Government offers positive, constructive and reasonable policies, they will have my support. But the Government could do far more to promote green energy, rather than giving unfair subsidies to new nuclear power stations. Conservatives want to enhance our environment by seeking a long-term cross-party consensus on sustainable development and climate change – instead of short-term thinking or surrendering to vested interests. The modern, compassionate Conservative Party believes that quality of life matters just as much as quantity of money.”

In December 2008 she said:

 “I am thrilled to see that after years of Conservative pressure, we have finally passed a necessary and ambitious piece of legislation on Climate Change. Britain is the first country in the world to formally bind itself to cut greenhouse emissions and I strongly believe this will improve our national and economic security. To stay reliant on fossil fuels would mean tying ourselves to increasingly unstable supplies which could endanger our energy security and the Climate Change and Energy Bills mark an important step for both the health of our economy and the health of our nation. It is now vital that we stick to these targets. I will continue to put pressure on the Government over the third runway at Heathrow as an extra 222,000 flights a year would undermine our national targets and seriously damage the health of the local community.”

https://www.carbonbrief.org/revealed-when-theresa-may-spoke-out-on-climate-change

So the new prime minister accepts the need to move away from fossil fuels. The Hinkley subsidy will be questioned – as it should be in my view. Other nuclear options would require less subsidy. A new runway at Heathrow looks unlikely. (A new runway at Gatwick would similarly undermine national carbon targets. That is a battle to come.)

Boris Johnson as Foreign Secretary is a bizarre appointment. Perhaps May believes that giving him a serious job will make him grow up and lose his buffoon image. If so, I hope she’s right, but doubt it. Boris set ambitious decarbonisation targets as mayor of London, but did little to deliver them – and the targets were safely ‘not in my term of office’. And he has questioned human responsibility for climate change in some of his newspaper articles. So much growing up is needed.

New chancellor Philip Hammond gave some strong speeches on climate change in his previous role as Foreign Secretary, highlighting the economic and security advantages of leading the decarbonisation effort. For example, in November last year he said:

“For too long, we’ve allowed the debate about climate change to be dominated by purists and idealists – many of whom operate on the left of the political spectrum – who actively promote the notion that they and only they, have the answers to the climate challenge; and that we have to sacrifice economic growth and prosperity in order to meet it.

I reject those arguments. I reject them first of all because wanting to protect the world we inherit, to pass it on intact to the next generation is a fundamentally conservative instinct. As long ago as 1988 former Conservative Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher said, “the last thing we want is to leave environmental debts for our children to clear up… No generation has a freehold on this earth. All we have is a life tenancy – with a full repairing lease.”

And I reject those arguments secondly because I do not accept that we have to choose between our future prosperity and safeguarding the future of our planet. This is not a zero sum game. As conservatives, we choose both.”

https://www.gov.uk/government/speeches/foreign-secretary-speech-a-conservative-response-to-climate-change

I am not a Conservative, but I choose both too.

 

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