This time of year we are guaranteed what all the tourists love – the pomp and circumstance of the State Opening of Parliament and the Queen’s Speech.
Whether it proves that the UK has yet to enter the twenty-first century is for others to debate but the coalition government seems to have embraced the fracking lobby and distanced itself even further from those banging the drum for renewables.
The evidence for this comes from what was uttered by the monarch in a speech entirely written for her by the government. It appears that we are now dealing with a government that is comfortable with opposition to fracking for shale gas because it is deemed to be in the national interest. The UK government has seen the enormous boost it has given the USA’s energy reserves and believes the same can be achieved in this country, albeit on a smaller scale.
To make it commercially viable, it has stated it will change the trespassing legislation to allow fracking under people’s property without their permission. (Perhaps an exception will be made for the inhabitants of Buckingham Palace and the Prime Minister’s own Oxfordshire property.)
Not surprisingly, the renewables sector and environmental groups, have criticised the apparent move away from what David Cameron promised would be the “greenest government ever”.
“The UK needs houses, but policy should benefit the people who will buy and live in them as well as the people that build them,” said a disappointed Renewable Energy Association (REA) Chief Executive, Nina Skorupska. “Energy efficiency and renewable energy means seriously low energy bills – possibly under £300 – from day one. A strong emphasis on Allowable Solutions will see homeowners incur the costs of this new tax rather than the benefits of efficient homes with on-site renewables and greatly reduced energy bills.”
For those in the supply of gas to both the domestic and non-residential sectors, the step has been welcomed. Ken Cronin, Chief Executive of the UK Onshore Operators Group (UKOOG), which represents the onshore oil and gas industry, made no bones about his delight with the government commitment. “The proposed legislation will bring the onshore oil and gas and geothermal industries into line with other activities, such as mining and utilities, and will have no noticeable effect on the lives of home and property owners. [our italics]. It serves no one if an anomaly in the legal system allows the few to block access to much needed natural resources.”
We can only watch how the government’s resolve will hold as we enter election year. The figure of 75% against fracking is unlikely to shift greatly before we put our crosses on the ballot forms.