RISHI Sunak and Liz Truss have both suddenly decided that fracking for gas could restart if communities support it. Surprisingly, criticism has been rather muted, and one can’t help but wonder if members of the Green Blob have belatedly started to come to terms with the scale of the disaster they have unleashed upon the country. Fingers are going to be pointed at a lot of environmentalists, politicians, academics and journalists this winter.
It remains unclear whether the Tory leadership candidates’ volte face is genuine. Are they just telling party members what they want to hear? Or is there now a recognition that things are going to have to change?
The shake-up that is needed if the energy crisis is not to become a permanent feature of life in this country is profound. For a start, any investor thinking of backing a shale gas project in the UK is bound to be very cautious. Successive governments have made it plain that they expect fossil fuels to disappear from our energy mix in the near future. Who would put money into an industry that has already been condemned to death? Changing that perception is a major task for the incoming Prime Minister.
Even if financial backers can be found, it could still take years before we see any gas flow from UK shale beds. Planning permissions for most of the projects have lapsed, so years of bureaucratic wrangling are in prospect. Once that is behind them, developers will once again need to deal with the protesters who prevent them going about their business and the disinformation campaigns: taps on fire, earthquakes, poisoned water, the whole mendacious kit and caboodle, all faithfully retransmitted by the corrupt mainstream media.
That’s before they even start drilling. Once they do, there is the absurd ‘traffic light’ system, which forces them stop work if there is even the slightest trembling in the ground. Shale gas is the only extractive industry which has to deal with such foolishness, and it was clear from its inception that it was a measure put in place by cowardly politicians as a means to kill off the industry.
Domestic shale gas is not going to help us this winter, and probably not the winter after that either. Nevertheless, the new PM is going to have to get to grips with the issues, and soon. Emergency legislation will probably be required.
Is there anything that can be done in the short term? The answer is not much. Removing VAT from energy bills might bring relief of a kind, but without commensurate cuts in spending, it’s really just hiding the problem – dealing with symptoms rather than causes. It’s the same story with removing green levies from electricity bills. If they end up in general taxation instead, households still have to foot the bill for the largesse that we hand out to windfarm operators.
However, that largesse is an area the new PM could address. It is within the power of the Government to reduce the value of the subsidy paid per unit of electricity under the Renewables Obligation, right down to zero. Since windfarms are earning such spectacular sums in the open market – perhaps ten times what they earned a year ago – paying a subsidy on top is a considerable insult to consumers. Cutting the subsidy to zero would save consumers £6billion-plus, more than £200 per household.
Further gains could come from cancelling all the green spending programmes – subsidies for EVs and EV chargers, for heat pumps and so on. Suspending the Emissions Trading Scheme could save a lot more – perhaps another £200 per household. Whether any of these measures are possible is unclear. The web of green measures that are quickly strangling the economy and driving households into penury were put in place in response to the Climate Change Act. Any attempt to reverse them would therefore be open to challenge in the courts. Repealing the Act may therefore be the single most important step for the new administration.
Whether the Conservative Party has the will to do so remains to be seen, but until it happens, the Climate Change Act will continue to grind British families into the dust. And when those fingers are pointed this winter, many of them will be directed at its authors: Tony Blair, Ed Miliband and Baroness Worthington.