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‘Energy is what I say it is’ said the Mad Hatter to Alice

Can you believe a single word they say? The government’s new Energy Bill published last week was proclaimed as enabling the UK to “move away from high carbon technologies” (i.e. coal, oil and gas).

The Bill says that to meet the government’s statutory commitment to cut greenhouse gases by 80% by 2050, electricity plants must be largely decarbonised by the 2030s. That is impossible without the widespread deployment of CCS – capturing the carbon from power stations and storing it underground. Yet the government clearly doesn’t believe this is going to happen, not surprisingly since no prototype exists anywhere and its development is riddled with problems. What that means is that the government is talking green technology, but actually giving the nod and wink to all the dirtiest fuels – coal, oil and gas.

First, coal, the dirtiest of all. The Coalition agreement said the government’s emission limit of 450 grams of carbon dioxide per kilowatt-four of electricity (450g/kWh) would prevent coal stations being built unless equipped with enogh CCS to keep within the emission performance standard. However last week’s Energy Bill, 2 years later, provides the get-out. In a neat legerdemain, it says that any new coal plant that “forms part of” the CCS programme will be exempted from the emission standard. So that’s all right then for the coal operators. All they have to do to qualify under the Energy Bill is plan on fitting at some unspecified point in the future some CCS of some unspecified quantity.

Then there’s oil. The day after the Energy and Climate Change Department (DECC) published the Energy Bill they announced, without apparently a hint of irony, that applications for new oil and gas drilling in the North Sea had broken all previous records. The same Department in two consecutive days makes two totally contradictory announcements.

Then gas. The government’s own independent Committee on Climate Change stated that if the 2050 target is to be met, power stations should emit no more than 50g/kWh by 2030. An emission standard of 450g is obviously utterly incompatible. Modern gas stations produce less than 400g/kWh, so the new emission limite won’t actually impact on them at all – which of course is why it was fixed at this level after intense corporate lobbying. And the Bill actually commits to this level all the way to 2045, i.e. with no requirement to lower emissions for the next 33 years.

Game, set and match to the fossil fuel lobbies, and contempt and shame to the Tory/Lib Dems who still talk green, but act dirty brown.

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