David Cameron’s remarks yesterday to the liaison committee of MPs about renewable energy might just play a big part in his downfall at the general election.
His comments were contradictory at best, they laid bare once again the monumental lie that was his promise to lead the greenest government ever, and – perhaps more importantly – ignored a growing tide of feeling in Britain that we need to properly tackle climate change and embrace renewable energy.
Cameron is really out of step with the country on green issues.
This is the year in which membership of the Green Party has doubled; the year in which the IPCC made it clearer than ever that we have to completely give up fossil fuels by 2050 or face catastrophic climate consequences; the year in which climate change made itself more than evident as temperatures in Europe hit their highest since the 1500s.
Despite this, Cameron spent much of yesterday propagating myths, ignoring the seriousness of the challenge we face, and peddling propaganda for the fracking industry.
There are “some myths we need to get over” about fracking, he says, while doing his best to prop up existing myths about wind energy.
One of the myths that Cameron so blithely peddled is that the majority of people do not want wind power. He must know that this is not true, because research by his own government has consistently demonstrated the opposite. DECC’s public attitudes tracker currently shows that 70% of people in Britain are in favour of wind, compared to only 29% for fracking. Have a look at any poll over the last few years and they will say the same.
The fracking myths that Cameron outlines are not the main issues at all either: he’s pushing the real issues under the carpet.
Ultimately, fracking is an unnecessary and expensive risk. The Committee on Climate Change (CCC) tell us that our power network should almost carbon free by 2030 to meet the UK’s legally binding climate targets, and should be no longer relying on conventional gas by 2050. So we’re not going to need a lot of gas, because demand will be diminishing and we already have enough in the North Sea to meet that demand. And that’s without even considering new forms of green gas. By the time any potential fracking would come online, it would only have a short period of use before we need to stop using it.
The contradictions came thick and fast from Cameron yesterday, like waste from a pipe. It was difficult to know where to start to address all of his wilful oversights, and I certainly don’t have space for all of them here.
“The way you tax a new industry is different to the way you tax an existing industry,” he said. Really? North Sea oil got a tax break last week and that’s hardly a new industry. The hedge fund industry has also benefited from a £145m tax cut from Cameron – hardly a new industry either. There are many other examples.
Wind power has to stand on its own two feet without subsidies, he said. Well, what about the subsidies for nuclear via the new Contracts for Difference system, which will run for 35 years at twice the current cost of energy? The public will pick up the cost of cleaning them up too: a colossal subsidy in itself. The Nuclear industry is itself hardly new, at over 50 years old. Why can’t nuclear be left to stand on its own two feet? That was another promise this government once made.
“My objection to the green groups is that they don’t want to hear any of these arguments, because they can’t bear any new carbon-based energy source coming on stream” Cameron said.
That this is patronising and deceitful is neither here nor there. The real problem for Cameron is that it’s not just green groups who want us to take climate change seriously and change the way we make and use energy in Britain – it’s a growing number of people in Britain. By playing to the UKIP gallery, Cameron is ignoring those people and taking his eye off the ball. And it will hopefully cost him the only thing that seems to matter to him – power.