Jim Ratcliffe Attacks ‘Ignorant Minority’ Calling for Fracking Freedom
The standoff comes as one of the most influential Tory politicians outside London said Treasury officials “fundamentally don’t understand” the impact of the cost of living crisis.
Ben Houchen, the mayor of Tees Valley and a key ally of Boris Johnson’s ‘red wall’, lashed out at the ‘economic purists’ of the civil service today in an interview with the Telegraph.
Soaring inflation coupled with rising bills and interest rates means the choice “between heating and eating is very, very poignant,” Houchen said.
And it won’t just be low-income people, he added. “A lot of people who have historically felt comfortable will feel very, very uncomfortable over the next few months.”
“I think a lot of people in Westminster, while some are talking about it, a lot of them don’t fundamentally understand the impact these people are going to feel,” he added.
“There are too many economic purists in the public service… We all know the world is not on a level playing field. The French subsidize their power. The Russians use gas as a geopolitical tool, and you have the North Americans using fracking gas.
One option, Houchen said, could be for the government to approve a deferral of green levies for a year. Instead of canceling payments, the scheme would be in effect for an additional year to make up for money that is not collected over the next 12 months.
The 35-year-old said it would cut energy bills by 40%, at a cost to the Treasury of £12billion.
“There has to be some kind of short, sharp intervention that alleviates the cost of energy,” he said. “[It] would soften the blow massively. You’ll never be able to close that gap completely… but you can certainly limit it to a relatively small amount.
Commentary: Anti-fracking activists have destroyed our shot at energy security
By Sir Jim Ratcliffe
The UK is in the midst of an energy crisis. Gasoline prices are almost 10 times higher than in the United States, compared to just under three times a year ago.
The geopolitical situation in Europe is fragile, to say the least, given the Russian invasion of Ukraine. The impact of high gas prices is driving up electricity prices, which will push an even larger percentage of the UK population into fuel poverty.
How did we get to this situation? The development of the North Sea from the 1960s enabled the UK to develop an enviable degree of energy independence from the rest of the world. Not only did we have a secure, long-term gas supply, but we also had a well-planned fleet of nuclear reactors providing a significant proportion of low-carbon electricity.
All that has disappeared, successive governments of all political colors having no coherent energy policy.
Energy policy is a long game and perhaps just not suited to being handled by politicians with unavoidable short-term horizons. Over the past 50 years, we’ve had 27 energy secretaries with an average tenure of less than two years each – hardly a recipe for long-term thinking.
Take the example of nuclear energy. In 1956, the United Kingdom was the world leader in nuclear power. Calder Hall was the first reactor to provide commercial electricity to consumers and 11 of these magnox reactors were commissioned in 1972, followed by seven advanced gas reactors.
In 1979, the government announced the development of the pressurized water reactor program, with the objective of building one every year from 1982.
In fact, only the first of these, Sizewell B, was commissioned in 1995 – the UK’s last nuclear reactor. At that time, 25% of the UK’s electricity came from nuclear. This figure is now 16% and is rapidly decreasing as older reactors are retired. A complete lack of long-term thinking has eroded the technical edge we once had, so that our current only new build relies on hugely expensive French technology.