Blue on (unnamed) blue: Tories escalate war of words over controversial fracturing plans

The Minister of Energy reiterates that “pure zero is part of the solution, not part of the problem”, despite calls to revive British fracking projects

The escalation of controversy in the Conservative Party over the direction of the government’s pure zero strategy took a somewhat surprising turn this weekend after a small group of MPs backed a letter calling for a revival of the fracking industry in the UK but many declined to name names. .

It is reported that a group of 29 Tory deputies supported Fr. letter to Sunday Telegraph yesterdaycalling on the government to lift the moratorium on fracturing projects in the UK. But only five lawmakers have clarified their names – Craig McKinley, Steve Baker, John Whittingdale, Bob Blackman and Julian Knight. The Guardian reported that the letter was organized by the Net Zero Scrutiny Group (NZSG), which is believed to have 19 deputies, but the group declined to disclose the names of other deputies who signed the last letter.

The letter, which was also endorsed by former Brexit minister Lord Frost, cites controversial industry forecasts suggesting that the British fracking industry could extract “at least 50 years of cheap and sustainable gas” from shale fields in northern England. Thus, he argued that the government should make the gap break a central component of its level-raising agenda. “If empowerment is to mean anything, it should be focused on empowering communities, not telling them what they can and can’t do,” the letter said. “Due to the lack of public debate on our strategy to achieve pure zero, we have abandoned this fundamentally conservative principle… It’s time to lift this moratorium.”

But the letter drew harsh criticism on social media, including from Conservative peers and Environment Minister Lord Goldsmith, who warned that any attempt to lift the moratorium on new fracking projects would face strong public opposition and have little impact on prices. gas. In a series of tweets he insisted that “the argument that fracking will reduce our dependence on Russian gas is wrong.”

“Only one to three percent of British gas comes from Russia,” he said. “We import mostly from Norway – a friend and ally. And to replace half of the imported gas, we will probably need about 6,000 new wells with all the relevant industrial equipment and endless movements of trucks transporting toxic chemicals and wastewater to and from sites. It’s hard to imagine that communities across the UK are okay with that. “

He added that “it is difficult to overestimate how unpopular fracking is in the British public.” “The latest BEIS tracker showed only 18% support (76% supported the coastal wind),” he added. “People don’t want large-scale industrialization in the British countryside. And given that gas will be produced by private firms and sold at the highest price (internationally), there probably won’t be any measurable impact on gas prices in the UK anyway. We need gas.” It’s the cleanest bridge to renewable energy (I haven’t seen a model to say otherwise) But the UK isn’t Utah. each level the cost will be huge. ”

Goldsmith’s analysis seems to be widespread in the government, today Energy Minister Greg Hands gives an interview The Times in which he similarly rejected calls to lift the moratorium on fracturing. Referring to earthquake concerns and public opposition to new fracturing projects, Hands said that “unless convincing scientific evidence is presented to address these issues and ensure communities are on board, I see no change in this moratorium.”

У extensive interview, Hands dismissed accusations by Net Zero Scrutiny Group that moving to pure zero contributes to rising energy bills – an analysis that has been challenged by many expert organizations that have demonstrated how high wholesale gas prices are a major factor in increasing bills. “Pure zero is part of the solution, not part of the problem,” Hands said. “The answer should be a shift to low-carbon, zero-carbon renewables.”

However, this weekend there was further evidence of the delicate balance that the government seeks to strike if it seeks to accelerate the transition to zero, increase energy security, hold back energy bills and maintain support for increasingly volatile participants.

Hands reiterated the government’s view that it should continue to approve new oil and gas projects in the North Sea to maintain current energy security and minimize imports of liquefied natural gas, which could have a higher carbon footprint than domestic gas. Hands denied reports that the government sought to speed up approval of new projects, but championed a policy of maximizing production from the basin.

These comments are likely to anger both environmentalists, who say the government should work hard to curtail domestic fossil fuel production in the UK, and the NZSG and its media allies, who insist the government should speed up both on land and at sea. oil and gas production. .

To date, the government has widely resisted calls to dilute its zero strategy, instead taking the side of a much larger number of Conservative MPs who support climate action. The Treasury Department has rejected calls to curb some pressure to raise energy bills by abolishing green levies, and the Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy announced last week that accelerate the schedule of contract auctions for renewable energy sources.

However, there are still signs that rising gas prices could undermine some aspects of the government’s decarbonisation plans, as well as fears that Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s vulnerability to the leadership problem may still cause a change in the government’s approach. A number of cabinet ministers have reportedly called for a revival of fracking projects and a reduction of the zero-zero policy, although those who advocate such an approach have not explained how they combine slowing down decarbonisation efforts with UK climate targets. Meanwhile, the Treasury has not yet allocated more ambitious funding for energy efficiency amid concerns in Whitehall over the deficit situation, while today’s reports suggested that green fee reforms to help boost demand for heat pumps have been suspended.

The Times reported that proposals to shift levies from electricity bills to gas bills have been postponed, at least until the current gas price crisis ends. Last fall, the government confirmed it would investigate proposals to shift the green fee of £ 160 a year to an average energy bill from electricity to gas bills. Proponents of the reform argued that the move would make it more financially attractive for households to switch to electric heating systems such as heat pumps, and provide a clearer incentive for people to reduce gas use at home through increased energy efficiency. The move will also be cost-neutral for most households, as an increase in gas bills of £ 160 will be commensurate with a corresponding reduction in electricity bills.

However, critics immediately described the proposals as raising gas bills, and due to the fact that in April the limit on electricity prices should increase by 54 percent, plans were postponed. The Times Citing a government source, ministers continue to support the plan in principle, but proposals to gradually reduce electricity bills and increase them on gas bills have been postponed.

The delay was widely expected, but will still be a cause for concern for heat pump developers, who argue that it makes no sense to make cleaner electricity more expensive while minimizing gas charges. Thus, a number of energy players and green groups continue to call on the government to move green levies into general taxation, arguing that such a move would be a more progressive form of taxation and strengthen financial opportunities for green heating systems. However, this proposal was previously rejected by the Treasury due to concerns that the Treasury will have to withdraw the bill.

The government continues to face many difficult compromises and contentious political choices as it seeks to meet the urgent need to achieve its net zero goals through crude policies that are untied by high energy bills. But how regulators order pioneer fking Cuadrilla It seems that the opposition of the public and the government to the new fracturing project remains so strong that even the deputies who do not agree with it, apparently do not want to publicly say their name in calls for rethinking. At the moment, at least, attempts by Tory supporters to undermine the zero transition are facing a tough fight.

Want to learn more about how going to zero will affect your business? You can now register to participate in the virtual Net Zero Financial Summitwhich will be broadcast live and online on Tuesday, March 29, and will be available to delegates upon request after the event.

https://www.businessgreen.com/news-analysis/4044906/blue-unnamed-blue-tories-escalate-war-words-controversial-fracking-plans Blue on (unnamed) blue: Tories escalate war of words over controversial fracturing plans

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