Minister hails end of fossil fuel age

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A ROYAL Commission is to examine how Britain could abandon burning the oil, gas and coal that power most of its homes, industry and commerce, writes Geoffrey Lean.

The investigation - the first high-level recognition that the age of oil and other fossil fuels may be coming to an end - could mark the start of a transition as profound as the Industrial Revolution.

It comes at a time when the Government is increasing its commitment to renewable energy, such as wind power.

Last week, John Battle, the Energy Minister, gave the go-ahead for projects that would more than double the amount of electricity produced from renewable sources over the next few years. He is also planning a major investment in offshore wind energy in the North Sea.

The Royal Commission on Environmental Pollution - made up of distinguished scientists, economists, medics and industrialists - decided last week to "focus" on the implications of "phasing out" or "considerably reducing" the use of fossil fuel by mid next century.

The report, due to be published at the end of next year, will look at whether Britain's use of energy can be reduced, the future (if any) of nuclear power, and ways of taxing the use of fossil fuel. And it will examine "what key policies would be needed to force the pace of adoption of renewable sources of energy in the UK".

Dr Derek Lewis, the commission's secretary, said that while it had not made up its mind in advance, its inquiry appears to be the first time a body of this kind has looked at ending the burning of oil, gas and coal.