The following is the voice of our indomitable Mike Shipley in which he presents a Green Party vision of vital, workable, sustainable energy policy in alternative to the wasteful and socially and environmentally reckless government energy agenda which subsidizes and gives tax breaks to trillion pound Big Oil companies and under-funds renewable alternatives:
The Wrong and the Right in Energy Policy
The International Energy Agency has warned the world that by 2017, we will have a better than even chance of being locked in to a 2C rise in temperature. This is a result of the investment decisions now being taken that will determine global energy infrastructure for the next 30 years or more. Unless someone, somewhere starts to make a serious commitment to the decarbonisation of energy production, we will experience at least 2C of global warming by mid century and be on track for at least double this by century’s end.
Who will take that lead? The International community, bought off by oil interests, have shelved any decision on cutting carbon emissions until 2020. This is too late to stop a 2C rise without truly massive emergency investment. The British Government has also signalled that it has abandoned any pretence of showing leadership, with a policy portfolio dominated by private interests. In his last budget statement George Osborne handed tax breaks to oil and gas companies to encourage a new round of exploration in the North Sea and to open the door to gas fracking. Coupled with his slashing of feed in tariffs for renewables, his energy policy is to lock the UK into high carbon and increasingly expensive fuels for the next generation. Even the pilot CCS project at Long Gannet in Scotland has been abandoned through lack of support by the private sector.
Osborne is always quick to point out that there isn’t the money available to radically change the UK energy infrastructure. Oh yes there is. The trouble it is in the hands of the big oil and gas companies and they won’t pay their taxes or even invest in the next generation of renewable fuels. As a result of Osborne’s ill timed policy of giving tax breaks to the worlds richest companies, nearly £26 Billion will be invested in North Sea exploration 2011 – 2013. This is the money that was desperately needed to invest in our sustainable energy future. Of course the industry and Osborne herald this as good investment, generating jobs and tax revenue. Except that the investment comes as a result of promise of taking less tax and the industry is globally shedding jobs. This investment is about private wealth. The Scottish Government estimates that there is £1.5 trillion of oil to be won from the UK Continental Shelf, these companies are investing to get that wealth quickly, and they can only earn it if they burn the oil and release the carbon dioxide. Osborne has slammed the door on 2C and opened the one marked 4+. Thank you Gideon!
The oil companies have become untouchable, they sit on mountains of cash and are using it to enrich their shareholders and senior executives, they give vast sums to politicians and organisations that will look after their interests and promote climate change denial. The top 5 oil companies, which include BP and Shell, made $1trillion in profits in the decade 2001-11. In addition they receive public money as subsidies and tax breaks, the richest of them all, Exxon-Mobil, pays a mere 18% tax rate. If any finance minister has the nerve to demand a higher share of that profit to help a struggling local economy or to build national infrastructure, they pull out and go elsewhere. This happened in the UK when Gordon Brown increased taxation on the oil sector, in response oil companies reduced output to reduce their tax liability until they got an oil friendly Chancellor.
All this new investment sends a clear signal to the financial markets that the safe place for money is in the fossil sector, Government support for renewables is lukewarm and hedged with uncertainty, therefore it is unattractive to investors, so it is starved of cash. Investors want maximum and quick profits. The oil that will flow as a result of these tax breaks will be burned adding to the still rising levels of carbon dioxide. Yet as we know that 80% of existing oil reserves needs to remain unburned if we are to limit temperature rise to a level we can reasonably hope to afford to live with. With men like Osborne in control, delivering the policy demanded by Big Oil, that is not going to happen.
But it doesn’t have to be like this.
At our Spring Conference, a draft policy paper for Energy was presented. This policy shows how it would be possible to implement an energy strategy that addressed the real issues that are ignored by the Liberal Democrat Conservative Government. It presents a strategy that enables the full decarbonisation of both energy and transport by mid century. A strategy that will end fuel poverty, that will create sustainable business opportunities and skilled jobs, that will invest in research and the development of new technologies so creating significant export opportunities. A strategy that will give the UK a long term affordable, reliable, sustainable and largely indigenous energy supply. The Green Energy Strategy would turn the UK into a global showcase, demonstrating how a technology based civilised society can operate within the carbon budget required to cut carbon dioxide to a safe level of 350ppm. Now wouldn’t that be a better policy option than making the richest companies and people in the world even richer while consigning us all to a very unstable and hazardous future?