By reversing the fracking ban, Liz Truss turns the clock back on climate policy – Olivia Blake PM


“Reversing the fracking ban will not even lower our energy bills or increase our energy security, as Truss and her cheerleaders in the Net Zero Scrutiny group suggest. Gas prices are not set by domestic supply but by international fossil fuel markets.”

By Olivia Blake MP

Liz Truss’s solution to the energy crisis is to cap bills at £2500 – a 95% increase on what they were a year ago – plunging millions into poverty, while refusing to levy a windfall tax on the record profits of the energy producers.

The cap is not even a short-term solution for those on low and middle incomes, but the decision to reverse the ban on fracking suggests the long-term strategy is also wrong – and more influenced by the climate deniers in the Tory Net Zero Scrutiny Group than a serious regard for energy security.  Trussism risks being the new Trumpism, which would spell ecological and climate catastrophe

The twin ecological and climate emergencies are an existential threat. We should tackle them by restoring our natural environment, keeping fossil fuels in the ground, and making the transition to clean renewable energy. Fracking takes us in exactly the opposite direction.

Not only does it extract more fossil fuels – which is incompatible with our Paris Agreement commitments – but the process itself produces methane, which further contributes to rising global temperatures. Research by NASA has shown that leaky gas production is one of the main drivers of methane emissions on the planet.

Extracting shale gas is also dangerous for people and the environment. Given the UK’s unique geography, the process is more likely to cause earthquakes, and the chemical flowback waters it uses can cause significant ecological damage and contaminate waterways – contributing to the already overly-polluted state of our rivers.

Reversing the fracking ban will not even lower our energy bills or increase our energy security, as Truss and her cheerleaders in the Net Zero Scrutiny group suggest. Gas prices are not set by domestic supply but by international fossil fuel markets. As the now Chancellor of the Exchequer, Kwasi Kwarteng, said only a few months ago:

‘No amount of shale gas from wells across rural England would be enough to lower European prices any time soon.’

‘And with the best will in the world, private companies are not going to sell the shale gas they produce to UK consumers below the market price.’

He’s flip-flopped now, but he was right the first time. Even if domestic production did affect international prices, the wells will not produce for many years. By then, the Government’s own 2035 target of a totally green power system will have made them obsolete. 

It’s for this reason that we should look on the Prime Minister’s proposal to review plans to meet the 2050 net-zero target with a great deal of suspicion. The signs are that the Tories are turning the clock back on climate policy.

The Net Zero Scrutiny Group claim not to deny the science of climate change – except, even if that’s how it was expressed, the political opposition to climate action was never driven by a dispute over the science, but over the financial interests of the fossil fuel industry. Today, the debate is similarly motivated.

Monumental international campaigning, protesting, and lobbying of Governments and civil society have meant that it is now politically very difficult to deny the reality of anthropogenic global heating. The strategy for protecting oil and gas profits has consequently shifted from a debate over the science to one over the affordability and practicality of taking meaningful climate action.

The rehabilitation of fracking is part of that attempt to recast the debate: we are now being asked to choose between tackling the cost-of-living or the climate emergency.

It’s a false choice. Our exposure to the volatility of international fossil fuel markets is one of the sources of soaring prices. The best way to insulate against wild fluctuations in the price of gas is to transition away from and reduce demand for it. That means massive investment in renewable energy and insulating our housing stock, which is one of the least energy efficient in Europe.

Black is not white, up is not down, and left is not right – and more fossil fuels and fracking are not the answer to this fossil fuel crisis or those of the future. Lowering the cost-of-living and meeting the challenge of the climate emergency are one and the same – we should reject the divisive argument that says otherwise.

Featured image: Liz Truss leaves No10 Downing Street for her first PMQ’s as Prime Minister September 7th 2022. Picture by Andrew Parsons/ No 10 Downing Street under Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

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