Anger over George Osborne's North Sea bid

 

Green campaigners have reacted angrily to the Chancellor's backing for fossil fuels, which included £3 billion in support for new drilling in the North Sea.

George Osborne gave qualified support to renewables in the Budget, describing them as a "crucial part of the UK's energy mix" but insisted he would remain alert to the costs they added to families' fuel bills.

"Environmentally sustainable has to be fiscally sustainable too," he said.

But he gave strong backing to gas, which he said was cheap and cleaner than coal, and would remain the UK's single biggest source of energy for decades.

And he said: "I also want to ensure we extract the greatest possible amount of oil and gas from our reserves in the North Sea."

He announced a series of tax changes, including £3 billion in allowances for drilling new large and deep fields in a bid to open up resources to the West of Shetland.

Exploiting the West of Shetland is opposed by environmentalists not only because would it lead to the extraction of more fossil fuels, but they fear the deep water and rough sea conditions would make a potential spill extremely hard to clean up.

Charlie Kronick, senior energy advisor for Greenpeace, said: "George Osborne has opened the flood gates to a new Klondike in the deep waters off Shetland without learning any of the lessons of the dangers this poses after the disaster in the Gulf of Mexico just over a year ago.

"Any oil spill in the west of Scotland would wreak untold devastation on some of the UK's most fragile habitat and the local economy."

Greenpeace also said the scant support for clean-tech industries in the Budget, alongside a U-turn on airport expansion in the South East and the backing for the oil industry, spelled out a polluters' charter that was bad for the environment.

WWF Scotland's head of policy Dr Dan Barlow said: "New deepwater drilling west of Shetland is just not worth the risk because we should be phasing out our use of oil not chasing ever more difficult sources.

"The Shell spill from Gannet Alpha last year showed that even in easy waters, a long experienced operator can make a total mess of dealing with an oil leak.

"Any significant oil spill in this area could present a major threat to fishing, tourism and wildlife."

He criticised the Government for handing subsidies to the "climate-wrecking" oil and gas industry, starving clean energy alternatives of much needed government investment.

Also in the Budget was a pledge to make administrative savings in the carbon reduction commitment scheme which aims to drive energy efficiency in businesses, and to replace it with an alternative environmental tax if sufficient savings could not be made.

And the Chancellor announced that combined heat and power plants would be exempt from the carbon price floor, which puts a minimum price on the permits major polluters have to pay to cover their emissions.

Friends of the Earth warned business was tiring of the Government's Jekyll and Hyde approach to developing a low carbon economy, and other countries were leaving the UK behind.

The green group's executive director Andy Atkins said: "This Budget sticks two fingers up at David Cameron's promise to build a clean future - and gives a massive thumbs down to new jobs and cutting our reliance on expensive gas and oil.

"Safeguarding our environment and growing a strong economy go hand in hand - but the Chancellor has fired the starting pistol for more roads, airports and gas power that will keep the UK hooked on costly fossil fuels for decades to come.

"The few green crumbs of comfort offered by Mr Osborne will be completely swept away by a package of policies that make this a Black Wednesday for the environment."

Energy and Climate Change Minister Greg Barker said fossil fuels were going to remain a major part of the UK's energy mix for the foreseeable future, and that exploiting North Sea resources was better than importing oil from abroad.

He said it was not a "binary choice" between fossil fuels and renewables, adding: "Particularly in the current climate, we need to drive energy independence, which is good for renewables too."

And he insisted the Budget was good for the environment, with the pro-business measures announced by the Chancellor benefiting the green economy.

"We see the green economy, the clean tech sector, which ranges from energy efficiency through to large scale renewables, as being a part of the mainstream economy and the mainstream recovery," he said.

He said clean tech was not a "cottage industry, dependent on Government subsidies", but a sector which could benefit from the wider incentives, red-tape cuts and business-friendly environment being created in UK.

Measures to simplify the carbon reduction commitment, to exempt combined heat and power plants from paying carbon floor prices - and the price floor itself which gave a commitment to creating a stable investment environment - were all good for the green economy, he said.

The Government also announced that the new "Natural Capital Committee", which aims to incorporate the value of natural assets into economic policy and advise ministers on how to protect them for the future, will be chaired by Oxford University professor and economist Dieter Helm.

He said: "This committee is a vital opportunity to bring the value of nature to the heart of Government policy.

"I was attracted by the innovative nature of the work, and look forward to the challenges it presents."

Government accused of 'stealth tax' on pensioners
Corporation tax cut to 24% in April
Unions criticise regional pay rates plan
Thousands escape child benefit axe
TV tax credit 'could end exodus' of big-budget shows
Smokers slam tobacco duty rise
Job fears over increase in beer tax increase
Plane passengers hit by air passenger duty hike
Anger over George Osborne's North Sea bid
Videogame industry celebrates tax relief in Budget
University research gets £100m boost
Ed Miliband condemns top rate tax cut
Estate agents warn that stamp duty raid could hit all homeowners
Government accused of producing a Budget 'for the rich'
George Osborne slashes 50% top tax rate
Osborne dashes fuel price hopes
Oliver Wright on the Budget: Now we have to look at what was NOT said
James Moore: Budget snap judgements
The Budget at a glance
Full text of the Budget speech

PA

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment
The Apprentice candidates Roisin Hogan, Solomon Akhtar, Mark Wright, Bianca Miller, Daniel Lassman
tvReview: But which contestants got the boot?
Arts and Entertainment
Jim Carrey and Jeff Daniels ride again in Dumb and Dumber To
filmReview: Dumb And Dumber To was a really stupid idea
News
people

Jo from Northern Ireland was less than impressed by Russell Brand's attempt to stage a publicity stunt

Sport
Scunthorpe goalkeeper Sam Slocombe (left) is congratulated by winning penalty taker Miguel Llera (right)
football
Life and Style
A woman walks by a pandal art installation entitled 'Mars Mission' with the figure of an astronaut during the Durga Puja festival in Calcutta, India
techHow we’ll investigate the existence of, and maybe move in with, our alien neighbours
Arts and Entertainment
Sir Ian McKellen tempts the Cookie Monster
tvSir Ian McKellen joins the Cookie Monster for a lesson on temptation
News
i100
Travel
Tourists bask in the sun beneath the skyscrapers of Dubai
travelBritish embassy uses social media campaign to issue travel advice for festive holiday-makers in UAE
Arts and Entertainment
Jennifer Saunders stars as Miss Windsor, Dennis's hysterical French teacher
filmJennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress
Life and Style
tech
Sport
Nabil Bentaleb (centre) celebrates putting Tottenham ahead
footballTottenham 4 Newcastle 0: Spurs fans dreaming of Wembley final after dominant win
Life and Style
Sebastian Siemiatkowski is the 33-year-old co-founder and CEO of Klarna, which provides a simple way for people to buy things online
tech
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ampersand Consulting LLP: 3rd Line Support Engineer (Windows Server, Exchange Server)

£35000 per annum + Benefits: Ampersand Consulting LLP: 3rd Line Support Engine...

Investigo: Finance Analyst

£240 - £275 per day: Investigo: Support the global business through in-depth a...

Ampersand Consulting LLP: Server / Infrastructure Engineer (Exchange, Windows, VMware)

£32000 - £38000 per annum + Bonus and Benefits: Ampersand Consulting LLP: Serv...

Ampersand Consulting LLP: Virtualisation / Cloud Infrastructure Engineer (VMware, Cloud)

£38000 - £44000 per annum + Bonus and Benefits: Ampersand Consulting LLP: Virt...

Day In a Page

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas
La Famille Bélier is being touted as this year's Amelie - so why are many in the deaf community outraged by it?

Deaf community outraged by La Famille Bélier

The new film tells the story of a deaf-mute farming family and is being touted as this year's Amelie
10 best high-end laptops

10 best high-end laptops

From lightweight and zippy devices to gaming beasts, we test the latest in top-spec portable computers
Michael Carberry: ‘After such a tough time, I’m not sure I will stay in the game’

Michael Carberry: ‘After such a tough time, I’m not sure I will stay in the game’

The batsman has grown disillusioned after England’s Ashes debacle and allegations linking him to the Pietersen affair
Susie Wolff: A driving force in battle for equality behind the wheel

Susie Wolff: A driving force in battle for equality behind the wheel

The Williams driver has had plenty of doubters, but hopes she will be judged by her ability in the cockpit
Adam Gemili interview: 'No abs Adam' plans to muscle in on Usain Bolt's turf

'No abs Adam' plans to muscle in on Usain Bolt's turf

After a year touched by tragedy, Adam Gemili wants to become the sixth Briton to run a sub-10sec 100m
Calls for a military mental health 'quality mark'

Homeless Veterans campaign

Expert calls for military mental health 'quality mark'
Racton Man: Analysis shows famous skeleton was a 6ft Bronze Age superman

Meet Racton Man

Analysis shows famous skeleton was a 6ft Bronze Age superman
Garden Bridge: St Paul’s adds to £175m project’s troubled waters

Garden Bridge

St Paul’s adds to £175m project’s troubled waters
Stuff your own Christmas mouse ornament: An evening class in taxidermy with a festive feel

Stuff your own Christmas mouse ornament

An evening class in taxidermy with a festive feel
Joint Enterprise: The legal doctrine which critics say has caused hundreds of miscarriages of justice

Joint Enterprise

The legal doctrine which critics say has caused hundreds of miscarriages of justice
Freud and Eros: Love, Lust and Longing at the Freud Museum: Objects of Desire

Freud and Eros

Love, Lust and Longing at the Freud Museum