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Energy Bill: Economic Growth Or Green Ideology?

Jim Pickard, Financial Times

David Cameron and Nick Clegg dashed hopes on Thursday of a deal on energy policy when they put off talks aimed at ending months of coalition deadlock over the issue.

The prime minister and his Liberal Democrat deputy had been expected to finalise the long-delayed energy bill in a “quad” meeting of coalition leaders.

However, the issue was left off the agenda because it was clear that more work was needed to narrow differences over a bill that is supposed to spark urgently needed investment in UK power infrastructure.

Wrangling over energy policy – both among the coalition partners and within the Conservative party – has been under scrutiny this week after Greenpeace, the environmental group, secretly filmed Tory politicians speaking out against renewable energy.

At the heart of the conflict is tension between Mr Cameron’s commitment to lead “the greenest government ever” and a growing belief among Tories that low-carbon initiatives are a burden on business.

As the economy has flat-lined, George Osborne, the chancellor, has sought to jettison several green commitments in an effort to prioritise growth and ease household energy bills.

But despite strong Tory backing, Mr Osborne has run up against intransigence from Lib Dems determined to defend their green agenda.

Ed Davey, the Lib Dem energy secretary, was angered by anti-wind power comments from John Hayes, the Tory minister inserted into his department in the cabinet reshuffle. Mr Davey wants to see a “2030 decarbonisation target” in the energy bill, against the wishes of Mr Osborne.

The enigma remains the prime minister, who is now under pressure to intervene decisively.

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