The new chairman of the Climate Change Committee, Lord Deben (aka John Gummer) has written to Ed Davey, the secretary of state for energy and climate change, expressing “great concern” over a statement by Davey in July that indicated that Britain must continue to rely heavily on gas to produce electricity. They also urged him to impose a maximum emissions limit on power generation of 50 grams of CO2 per kilowatt hour (kWh), which would rule out both coal and gas.
Davey dismissed their calls, restating his view that Britain urgently need a massive new investment in gas generation.
So the first message of last week was that the once hugely influential Climate Change Committee in effect has been kicked into touch. In the name of keeping Britain’s economy running, the government seems now determined to break its own law.
What makes all this even more significant, however, is that it is taking place against the background of a truly astonishing worldwide energy revolution. Country after country is now rushing to exploit the shale gas that, in the past four years, has more than halved gas prices in the US. China, Germany, France, Russia, South Africa and others all have immense reserves that promise to provide the world with cheap energy for centuries to come.
And, here in Britain, determined moves are at last being made to reverse the government’s grudging negativity towards our own vast shale gas reserves, led by our new environment secretary, Owen Paterson, who seems to be winning surprising support for his enthusiasm for shale gas from key officials in his own department and the Environment Agency, which has regulatory responsibility for this new industry.
After years when our energy policy was being dictated by green wishful thinking, by the likes of Gummer and by state-subsidised pressure groups such as Friends of the Earth (which first invented, then helped to draft, the Climate Change Act), reality is at long last breaking in.
The green make-believe that has cast such a malign spell over our country for far too long is finally on the run.
So when will antismoking make-believe, which has cast an even more malign spell over Britain for even longer, be finally put to flight? After all, it’s as much wishful thinking to want to make Britain ‘smoke-free’ as it is to want to make it ‘carbon-neutral’.
When is the UK’s hugely influential Scientific Committee on Tobacco and Health going to be kicked into touch by a minister calling for a massive new investment in Britain’s hospitality industry in order to attract customers from the whole of British society, and not just from its non-smoking sector?
I’m sure it will happen one day. And the current rout of the Greens suggests that simple common sense is beginning to slowly percolate through government, banishing wishful thinking of every kind.
And as a semi-detached member of the moribund EU, it really ought to be a lot easier for Britain to break its own antismoking laws (as it is now setting out to break its own climate change legislation) and relax the smoking ban, than it is for most other countries in the EU. The result would be a swift recovery of Britain’s hospitality industry, and perhaps even a flood of visiting smokers from many European countries. Over the past 5 years, Britons have been heading for European countries to escape its draconian antismoking laws. But if Britain were the first to relax those laws, Europeans would start visiting Britain, rather than vice versa, which would provide an even greater impetus to its hospitality industry, and an even swifter recovery from the current depression.
What I don’t understand about John Selwyn Gummer is that I thought he was a Conservative. He was a minister in Margaret Thatcher’s government, after all. So when did he metamorphose into a Green?