There are green vested interests too, Mr Davey

Opposition to renewables is not "ideological". Those who are opposing Davey’s Energy Bill do so because they see no good in making poor households poorer

Share

Few are so cross as the politician who is losing an argument. This might explain the eruption of anger by that most mild-mannered of ministers, Ed Davey. At a conference on rainforests convened by the Prince of Wales at Clarence House yesterday, the Energy and Climate Change Secretary laid into those who object to the Government’s insistence that consumers must be made to switch to renewable forms of energy, regardless of cost.

Davey accused such opponents of “destructive and loudly clamouring scepticism born of vested interest, nimbyism, publicity-seeking controversialism or sheer blinkered, dogmatic, political bloody-mindedness”. In this, he was echoing his royal host’s remarks a few weeks back that such people were “corporate lobbyists” turning the Earth into “a dying patient”.

Some cynics will argue that Davey’s tirade was designed to appease Greens furious that he is not backing the amendment to the Energy Bill by Tim Yeo: the Tory chairman of the Commons Energy and Climate Change committee is proposing a much higher rate of emissions reduction. Yeo, at least, is not as hysterical as the heir to the throne. Last week, he admitted that: “The first thing is to say that climate change does not represent any threat to the survival of the planet. None at all.” Indeed, last month the journal Geophysical Research Letters published a paper based on study of satellite photographs of the driest regions of North America, the Middle East and parts of Africa, which found that foliage had increased by 11 per cent over the past 30 years. The scientists behind the research argue that this could have been a direct result of increased CO2 emissions. What else would you expect from something called “The Greenhouse effect”?

 No, the issue is not the planet: it is a question of what is in the interests of those living on it. The way Davey tells it, all those on the other side of the argument from him and Prince Charles are just representatives of vested interests and corporate lobbyists, while those pushing to have the country and the coastline covered by wind turbines are motivated purely by disinterested concern for the national welfare.

This is amusing. Tim Yeo himself has been receiving handy sums of money from Green energy companies – Eco City and TMO Renewables, for example. Last year alone (we know this from his declaration of interests), Yeo took more than £135,000 from such firms. Meanwhile, his like-minded colleague in the House of Lords, the former Tory Environment Secretary John Gummer, now the head of the “independent” Committee on Climate Change, was until very recently chairman of Forewind, a business dedicated to the construction of the world’s largest offshore wind farm, in the North Sea. That job has now been seamlessly taken on by another Tory MP, Charles Hendry, who until last year was a minister in the Department of Energy and Climate Change.

If it still isn’t sinking in, cast your eye over the list of organisations which yesterday called on MPs to vote for Yeo’s amendment to the Energy Bill. They include the Carbon Capture and Storage Association, the Solar Trade Association and the Renewable Energy Association. These are all trade lobbyists, increasingly anxious about the future of the vast public subsidies on which their business model depends.

They are right to be anxious. Last month, the European Commission intimated that it would no longer put up with the way Germany – the leader of renewable energy on the Continent—had been giving its industrial users exemption from the true cost of using “clean” electricity. As Spiegel reported: “Owners of wind and solar farms were paid about €14bn last year alone, the difference between the guaranteed price and the proceeds actually achieved… The scenario outlined by the European Energy Commissioner [of demanding repayment of the subsidy] is a horrifying one. The competitiveness of entire industrial sectors would be put at risk.”

 As Ed Davey has surely noticed, the European Commission, previously the driving force behind renewable energy targets, has suddenly become transfixed by the competitive challenge from the US, where the development of low-cost shale gas has transformed the industrial landscape: last month, the Commission President, Jose Barroso, warned EU leaders that they were at joint and several risk of seeing their countries’ industries migrate across the Atlantic.

 Happily, the UK seems to be sitting on vast reserves of shale gas – the Bowland shale in Lancashire is about five times as thick as the Marcellus shale in Pennsylvania, where the recent US gas boom started. Oddly, the Government seems reluctant to celebrate this: it was left to one of the new companies in the field to point out yesterday that between 25,000 and 40,000 jobs could be created directly in producing this indigenous resource. But it also made a much more important point, which differentiates this sort of investment from that in wind farms: “it could underpin several hundred thousand jobs” in energy intensive industries.

The Green movement and its supporters in Westminster and St James’s tend to describe their opponents as “ideological”. Yet no one is objecting to renewable energy on principle. Those who are opposing Davey’s Energy Bill do so because they see no good in making poor households poorer or in driving manufacturing industry to the US or China. You wouldn’t necessarily expect the Prince of Wales to understand that. But politicians should know better: unless, of course, they have a vested interest.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Business Analyst - 12 Month FTC - Entry Level

£23000 - £27000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Business Analyst is required ...

Recruitment Genius: Chefs - All Levels

£16000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: To succeed, you will need to ha...

Recruitment Genius: Maintenance Engineer

£8 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join an award winni...

Recruitment Genius: Telesales Executive & Customer Service - Call Centre Jobs!

£7 - £9 per hour: Recruitment Genius: Are you outgoing? Do you want to work in...

Day In a Page

Read Next
George Osborne appearing on the BBC's Andrew Marr Show on Sunday, 5 July 2015  

George Osborne says benefits should be capped at £20,000 to meet average earnings – but working families take home £31,500

Ellie Mae O'Hagan
The BBC has agreed to fund the £650m annual cost of providing free television licences for the over-75s  

Osborne’s assault on the BBC is doing Murdoch’s dirty work

James Cusick James Cusick
Isis in Syria: Influential tribal leaders hold secret talks with Western powers and Gulf states over possibility of mobilising against militants

Tribal gathering

Influential clans in Syria have held secret talks with Western powers and Gulf states over the possibility of mobilising against Isis. But they are determined not to be pitted against each other
Gaza, a year on from Operation Protective Edge: A growing population and a compromised and depleted aquifer leaves water in scarce supply for Palestinians

Gaza, a year on from Operation Protective Edge

A growing population and a compromised and depleted aquifer leaves water in scarce supply for Palestinians
Dozens of politicians, bureaucrats and businessmen linked to Indian bribery scandal die mysteriously

Illnesses, car crashes and suicides

Dozens of politicians, bureaucrats and businessmen linked to Indian bribery scandal die mysteriously
Srebrenica 20 years after the genocide: Why the survivors need closure

Bosnia's genocide, 20 years on

No-one is admitting where the bodies are buried - literally and metaphorically
How Comic-Con can make or break a movie: From Batman vs Superman to Star Wars: Episode VII

Power of the geek Gods

Each year at Comic-Con in San Diego, Hollywood bosses nervously present blockbusters to the hallowed crowd. It can make or break a movie
What do strawberries and cream have to do with tennis?

Perfect match

What do strawberries and cream have to do with tennis?
10 best trays

Get carried away with 10 best trays

Serve with ceremony on a tray chic carrier
Wimbledon 2015: Team Murray firing on all cylinders for SW19 title assault

Team Murray firing on all cylinders for title assault

Coaches Amélie Mauresmo and Jonas Bjorkman aiming to make Scot Wimbledon champion again
Wimbledon 2015: Nick Bollettieri - Vasek Pospisil must ignore tiredness and tell himself: I'm in the quarter-final, baby!

Nick Bollettieri's Wimbledon Files

Vasek Pospisil must ignore tiredness and tell himself: I'm in the quarter-final, baby!
Ashes 2015: Angus Fraser's top 10 moments from previous series'

Angus Fraser's top 10 Ashes moments

He played in five series against Australia and covered more as a newspaper correspondent. From Waugh to Warne and Hick to Headley, here are his highlights
Greece debt crisis: EU 'family' needs to forgive rather than punish an impoverished state

EU 'family' needs to forgive rather than punish an impoverished state

An outbreak of malaria in Greece four years ago helps us understand the crisis, says Robert Fisk
Gaza, a year on from Operation Protective Edge: The traumatised kibbutz on Israel's front line, still recovering from last summer's war with Hamas

Gaza, a year on from Operation Protective Edge

The traumatised kibbutz on Israel's front line, still recovering from last summer's war with Hamas
How to survive electrical storms: What are the chances of being hit by lightning?

Heavy weather

What are the chances of being hit by lightning?
World Bodypainting Festival 2015: Bizarre and brilliant photos celebrate 'the body as art'

World Bodypainting Festival 2015

Bizarre and brilliant photos celebrate 'the body as art'
alt-j: A private jet, a Mercury Prize and Latitude headliners

Don't call us nerds

Craig Mclean meets alt-j - the math-folk act who are flying high