Will UK politicians catch-up?

The EU U-turn over energy

Christopher Booker, Sunday Telegraph May 25th 2013

In March, we are now told (although it was reported here at the time), Britain came within hours of running out of gas and facing enormous power cuts. Meanwhile, almost wholly unnoticed by the British media, there were signs last week of a mighty earthquake beginning to take place in the EU’s energy policy.

For 20 years, as we know, this has been hijacked by the EU’s fixation with climate change. But at Wednesday’s meeting of the European Council, there were, at last, indications that many countries now recognise that the EU’s bid to lead the world in “de-carbonising” is leading the European economy towards meltdown.

They have finally cottoned on to the fact that, in recent years, while energy prices in Europe have been doubling, those in the US, thanks to the shale gas revolution, have halved. Thanks to the demonising of fossil fuels, the obsession with windmills and ever-rising taxes on any economic activity that emits CO₂, European countries have been alarmed to see ever more European firms being forced either to move their operations outside the EU, or to shut down altogether (as we saw here in Britain recently with the closure of our last remaining major aluminium smelter, at the cost of 500 jobs).

Astonishingly, even that great greenie David Cameron told journalists in Brussels that, with the US now deriving 30 per cent of its energy from shale, and Europeans now having “to pay twice what Americans pay for wholesale gas”, Britain and Europe must now work flat-out to exploit their own vast shale gas reserves. “Unnecessary regulation,” he insisted, “must not stand in the way.”

The environment secretary, Owen Paterson, whose brother-in-law Lord (Matt) Ridley is our leading parliamentary enthusiast for shale gas, is already clearing the regulatory decks for shale gas drilling in Britain to go ahead as soon as possible.

Mr Cameron, like other EU leaders, still paid lip service to the need to “meet our carbon targets” (shale gas being a fossil fuel). But, unmistakably, the tectonic plates are at last beginning to shift under an EU energy policy that for too long has imprisoned us on a course that could only land Europe’s economies in an even more disastrous and uncompetitive mess than they are in already.

What happened last week could prove to be a unique example in the EU’s history of it recognising that it has made such a catastrophic blunder that its policy must change. But so boring do we consider pretty well anything the EU does that almost nobody in Britain – apart from the admirable Global Warming Policy Foundation – seems to have noticed.