Bernard Ingham: Village on the fracking frontline can lead a return to energy sanity

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KIRBY Misperton, we need you. This corner of Ryedale, where they are fratching over fracking for shale gas, reminds me that it is 20 years since I began to harry sucessive governments over their idiotically expensive and dangerous energy policies.

I wrote to my friend, John Wakeham, then Lord Privy Seal, about the reliance on wind power to reduce carbon emissions and got the usual official nonsense: “Our general policy has to be to encourage the development of the most promising sources of renewable energy wherever they have prospects of being economically attractive and environmentally acceptable.”

But, as the Civil Servant responsible for energy conservation and renewables, I had established nearly 20 years earlier that wind power could never be economic until perhaps it was possible to store power production in bulk. We still cannot do so.

Belatedly this Government is reining back subsidies for onshore wind turbines and solar panels. But, in tune with the absurdities connected with energy, it is not discouraging the even more expensive and still unreliable offshore wind that is subsidised three times the market price for electricity.

Meanwhile, ably assisted by the EU, it is shutting fossil-fuelled power stations – coal, oil and gas – under Ed Miliband’s Climate Change Act of 2008. Worse still, it is not yet building any new nuclear power stations, which have been producing power with next to no carbon emissions for nearly 60years.

The result is that the safety margin of supply over likely maximum demand this coming winter is down precariously to below two per cent. The National Grid hopes it will be able to cope by calling in diesel and gas generators who will be paid for standby power at around six times the market price.

And talking of costs, which you and I will also have to meet, the Government has got itself tied up with the French EdF company for an unbelievable outlay so far of £24bn to build a big new nuclear power station at Hinkley Point in Somerset. But this reactor system has yet to produce a watt of electricity and is hopelessly behind schedule in Finland and at Flamanville across the Channel.

As if that were not enough, Labour 
sold Westinghouse, once owned by the now defunct British Nuclear Fuels, 
which has a viable and more economical reactor system being built across the world.

This is the background to why nationally we need whatever shale gas Kirby Misperton – and elsewhere – can profitably produce. It is not as though the village is new to gas production. Third Energy UK has been operating in North Yorkshire for more than 20 years and already has a gas well near the village.

So why is there a campaign to block fracking there?

I write as one of the last persons who wishes to defile our countryside or to become at odds with the villagers.

They fed me royally when I spoke there round about the time I started lambasting governments about energy policy.

I agree that fracking must be handled sensitively – far more sensitively than wind power has been.

But the rag bag of so-called environmentalists trying to stop fracking in Ryedale is like the rest elsewhere.

They are a bunch of monumental hypocrites who care nought for the nation’s social and economic wellbeing and even less for the poor, and are aesthetically dead.

It is they – primarily in the shape of “Greenwar” and “Enemies of the Earth” – who have brainwashed naïve politicians into believing that they can run Britain on renewables (primarily wind) and so save the world from being fried.

In the process, they have presided over the wrecking of huge tracts of wild landscape and seascape and the removal of land from food production to accommodate vast acres of ugly solar panels

They could not care less if the lights go out – after all, it should reduce carbon emissions – and have not the slightest objection to regressive taxation since wind, solar and other renewable subsidies generally represent a transfer of billions of pounds, through energy prices, from the poor to the loaded and landed “gentry”.

These people are obsessed with carbon dioxide to the point where the only thing that matters is its elimination. And to hell with the consequences. Hence, their campaign for a “frack free Rydale”. They are apparently incapable of seeing that the environmental impact of fracking is minimal compared with wind farms.

Let Kirby Misperton lead the way back to sanity with environmental sensitivity. I’ll bet their water supply stays as pure as ever, too.