Cameron appoints oil and gas friendly decision-makers

LONDON Wed Sep 5, 2012 12:11pm BST

Britain's Minister of State for Further Education, Skills and Lifelong Learning John Hayes delivers his speech on the second day of the Conservative Party Conference in Manchester, northern England October 3, 2011. REUTERS/Toby Melville

Britain's Minister of State for Further Education, Skills and Lifelong Learning John Hayes delivers his speech on the second day of the Conservative Party Conference in Manchester, northern England October 3, 2011.

Credit: Reuters/Toby Melville

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LONDON (Reuters) - Britain sent a clear signal of support to its oil and gas industry when it named an advocate of shale gas fracking as environment minister and a wind farm sceptic as energy minister.

The appointments in Prime Minister David Cameron's ministerial reshuffle on Tuesday mark a departure from his pledge to run Britain's greenest government, in favour of the fossil fuel sector that generates billions of pounds in tax revenue.

"There is a shift away from greener ministers in posts towards less green ministers and I think that's serious," Alan Whitehead, a member of the Energy and Climate Change Select Committee, said during an industry event on Tuesday.

The government last year put a brake on the development of shale gas extraction due to environmental concerns after it triggered two small earthquakes near Blackpool.

But Owen Paterson, a member of Cameron's Conservative Party who was appointed Environment Secretary in the reshuffle, has hailed the potential economic benefits of shale gas, a message likely to sway the country's decision in favour of the drilling method.

"If developed safely and responsibly, shale gas could generate massive economic activity and a wealth of new jobs," Paterson said in May, when he was Secretary of State for Northern Ireland.

He said huge shale gas deposits in Northern Ireland could be exploitable, adding that discoveries in the United States had shrunk its gas price to a quarter of British levels.

"(Shale gas) has also ended America's dependence on unreliable and dictatorial regimes," he said.

The decision on whether Britain will resume shale gas fracking, a method of drilling through shale deposits to retrieve gas by injecting liquids and chemical, is in the hands of the energy ministry, but support from the Department for Environment could speed up a decision.


John Hayes replaced Charles Hendry as Energy Minister in the reshuffle.

In his final media interview as Energy Minister, Hendry said a decision on shale gas was not imminent, but that Britain could not ignore its impact on the U.S. energy market.

Hayes has been a vocal opponent of wind farms, a technology the government regards as key to meeting climate change goals.

"Such tall structures will have a detrimental impact on the quality of life for local residents, the attractiveness of the area and its potential for tourism," Hayes said at a local council meeting, reflecting the views of his constituents campaigning against the construction of a wind farm.

He said wind farms would always be backed up by conventional power plants because of their unreliability and that they had a detrimental impact on wildlife.

"Wind power (considerably) increases the average household energy bills as the profit-hungry energy companies continue to chase the taxpayer funded subsidies and credits," the new Energy Minister said.

(Reporting by Karolin Schaps; Additional reporting by Susanna Twidale; Editing by David Cowell)

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Comments (4)
DCarso wrote:
The Tories are beginning to look more like the UK Tea Party. The environment and the public will suffer for what these ideologues are doing.

Sep 05, 2012 1:54pm BST  --  Report as abuse
USAHall wrote:
There is a balance necessary between energy exploration and environmental enthusiasm. Concerns about CO2 are high on the lists of many, but when faced with a choice of economic stagnation or decline and the off-chance possibility that the small human contribution to climate change might be detrimental [or it might be beneficial], rational minds tend to prioritize a strong economy that can support any needed adaptation to climate variation [which have occurred for millions of years in the absence of humans].

Environmental concerns should be more focused on air, water, and soil pollution issues and less on the weather 100 years hence. Humans survived the Medieval warming somehow when Iceland and Greenland became habitable and hospitable. Perhaps humans will be able survive a slightly warmer climate again.

Natural gas and geothermal energy along with hydroelectric power [where available] are superior to wind and solar power for reliability and are quite environmentally sound.

Sep 05, 2012 3:31pm BST  --  Report as abuse
J-Gwen wrote:
After all the years of bias of having appointed people who have financial connections with wind farm companies in positions to make decisions on renewable energy projects, its a welcome change to have someone appointed who is more likely to reflect the publics views.

Sep 06, 2012 12:06pm BST  --  Report as abuse
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