The Chancellor, George Osborne, has signalled a more rational approach to energy policy, if only the Energy and Climate Change Secretary would agree with it.
Chris Huhne, the Energy and Climate Change Secretary, has a penchant for lurid invective. Not satisfied with dragging Nazi slurs into the AV referendum campaign this year, yesterday he heaped abuse on those who dare voice doubts about the effectiveness of renewable energy. They were, he said, “curmudgeons and fault-finders… climate sceptics and armchair engineers who are selling Britain short”. Passion is a good thing in politicians, but childish name-calling is not.
There are no prizes for guessing Mr Huhne’s real target – George Osborne, the Chancellor, who this month told the Tory conference that this country would cut carbon emissions “no slower but also no faster” than our competitors, arguing that we will not save the planet by “putting our country out of business”. We trust Mr Osborne was signalling a more rational approach to energy policy.
Mr Huhne has nailed his colours to the renewables mast, particularly wind farms, because he says he wants to get this country “off the oil and gas price hook” at a time when fossil fuel prices are rising sharply. The strategy is flawed, not least because of dramatic developments in shale gas exploration. Britain has immense reserves of this easily exploited and relatively clean energy source. Yet we hear very little from Mr Huhne, or anyone else in the Coalition, about a new bounty that could prove every bit as significant as North Sea oil and gas. Could that be because shale gas offers the prospect of cheaper-than-expected energy prices in the decades ahead, which will in turn make the costly power generated by wind farms even less economically viable? The impact of its exploitation on renewables and indeed nuclear will be immense. This is the energy debate we should be having, rather than an unedifying slanging match.