AUTUMN STATEMENT 2012 - Osborne's Gas Strategy is a Fracking Disaster

5 December 2012

- Consultation on tax breaks for shale and new ‘office for fracking’ announced despite public fears over environmental consequences

- New report shows UK could be £20bn better off and create thousands more jobs with offshore wind revolution

The Chancellor has today outlined plans to allow a new fleet of gas-fired power stations to be built across the UK, a consultation on tax breaks for shale gas operators, and to establish a new ‘office for fracking’ as a part of his Gas Generation Strategy.

Responding to the announcement, the UK’s Green MP Caroline Lucas said:

“At this critical moment for the UK’s energy policy, Osborne’s gas strategy looks like nothing short of a disaster – for the economy, the environment and for people’s energy bills.

“This reckless move, driven by ideology not evidence, risks locking the UK into an expensive polluting fossil fuel future – increasing our exposure to volatile gas prices and forcing controversial fracking developments onto communities before the full impact is understood.

 “While we know that gas can play a small part as a bridging fuel as we move to greener sources, the government’s decision to sign off upwards of 30GW of new gas simply flies in the face of warnings about the consequences of a ‘dash for gas’ on both consumer bills and legally binding climate targets.

 “According to the chair of the Committee on Climate Change, even the previous plans for 20GW of gas could be illegal, while CCC chief executive David Kennedy’s view that a high-gas scenario "would not be economically sensible" surely leaves little doubt as to why No 10 recently vetoed his appointment to run the Department for Energy and Climate Change department.”

“A renewables revolution to stabilise prices, create jobs and improve security”

The Brighton Pavilion MP continued:

“If the Chancellor was really serious about keeping people’s energy bills down and improving energy security, he’d put his money on renewables – where the costs are entirely predictable and falling[1] all the time – efficiency, and reducing energy demand, rather than deepening our dependence on polluting gas, where prices are set to keep rising[2].

“A new report by Cambridge Econometrics shows that the UK would be £20bn better off by choosing more offshore wind over a gas-intensive path, creating 70,000 more equivalent jobs and saving £8bn a year on gas imports by 2030 - around £91 per household.

“Rather than throwing money at new gas infrastructure to be built after the 2020s – at exactly the time we need to be decarbonising –  the Chancellor could be creating jobs now, tackling fuel poverty and bringing down energy bills by funding a nationwide retrofit of our homes and buildings.”

Government’s ‘irrational obsession’ with shale gas

“The Chancellor’s new Office for Unconventional Gas and his proposed tax breaks for shale gas reveals the extent of this government’s irrational obsession with hard-to-reach shale – and with keeping the UK addicted to fossil fuels.

“This is a costly gamble, as former energy minister Charles Hendry has warned: “betting the farm on shale brings serious risks of future price rises.”[3]

“Residents close to drilling sites in Lancashire and Sussex have rightly expressed fears about fracking and the risk of pollution to drinking water, as well as the impact of such a water-intensive process on areas affected by drought.

“While these concerns – and those about the implications of shale exploitation for the climate –  remain unanswered, the decision to give a green light to fracking is deeply irresponsible.

“And gifting tax breaks to companies like Cuadrilla to leach every last bit of fossil fuel from the ground when the IEA is warning that we need to keep this stuff in the ground to avoid dangerous climate change makes a mockery of our claim to be taking a lead in international climate negotiations.”

ENDS

[1] DECC renewable energy roadmap, December 2011 http://www.decc.gov.uk/assets/decc/11/meeting-energy-demand/renewable-energy/2167-uk-renewable-energy-roadmap.pdf

 [2] Ed Davey, The FT http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/deb21b6e-fb6a-11e1-87ae-00144feabdc0.html#axzz2E06h6zIe

 [3] The Guardian, 21October 2012 http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2012/oct/21/energy-policy-david-cameron-shale-gas


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