Energy crisis may force Boris Johnson to ditch green policy - Bernard Ingham

What does it take for an advanced industrial country to start – says he, hopefully – to secure the very lifeblood of its economy? Answer: a war coming on top of a pandemic.

You never know with this Government whether it will actually do the job because it says one thing today and another tomorrow.

But, unless I am mistaken, it is showing signs of promoting North Sea oil and gas exploration, allowing fracking and perhaps even a new coking coal mine in Cumbria.

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It also promises a new fleet of nuclear power stations, though when they will be generating is anybody’s guess.

Boris Johnson’s Government is facing tough decisions on how it can secure Britain’s energy supplies.Picture: Finnbarr Webster/Getty Images.Boris Johnson’s Government is facing tough decisions on how it can secure Britain’s energy supplies.Picture: Finnbarr Webster/Getty Images.
Boris Johnson’s Government is facing tough decisions on how it can secure Britain’s energy supplies.Picture: Finnbarr Webster/Getty Images.
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The major European reactor being built by the French firm, EDF, at Hinkley Point in Somerset is already behind schedule and over budget. That is par for the course with that reactor. Their delay going on line in Finland and France seems interminable.

Another straw in the wind is the former SNP Energy Minister, Fergus Ewing, saying ramping up North Sea oil and gas production will be necessary to bolster energy security.

That has set the cat among the pigeons in Edinburgh since Nicola Sturgeon, the dictatorial SNP leader, is as green as they come. Mr Ewing’s simple message is “Don’t ruin the economy for the sake of net zero CO2 emissions”.

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If the Westminster Government is really taking that message to heart, stand by for more shenanigans from Extinction Rebellion, Insulate Britain and all the various militantly green offshoots who preach Armageddon glued to motorways.

It is that kind of zealotry pioneered by Friends of the Earth and Greenpeace that has landed us with an economy vulnerable to world energy shocks, not to mention instability in calm weather that stills “clean” windfarms.

So far the National Grid has generally been able to manage an essentially unstable power supply with all kinds of devices that have inflated energy prices and are now exacerbating the cost-of-living crisis.

It is a sorry tale bearing in mind our experience at the hands of miners – or perhaps more accurately Arthur Scargill – and a world energy crisis in 1974. A three-day working week resulting from mining disruption then coincided with Opec’s abuse of its oil pricing power.

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This resulted in the formation of the Department of Energy which I immediately joined as head of information and I subsequently flew with Lord Carrington to the USA for an international conference on the oil crisis.

All this means that Boris Johnson, as if he did not have enough on his plate, has been landed with political neglect going back 30 years.

He has not made life easier for himself with his grand designs to land us with thousands more unreliable wind turbines, a paramount zero carbon policy and consequent instability.

But all credit to him if at last a British Government actually tackles our national vulnerability that has set energy prices soaring and brought talk of winter rationing.

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He has an unanswerable case for taking his foot off the green pedal to help rescue the economy.

With the present state of technology, going green costs money we can ill afford. It may be a different story in future thanks to innovation.

That would help us to hit net zero carbon by 2050. All is not lost in trying to clean up the atmosphere for the good of our health and comfort.

But without reliable energy supplies we shall struggle to create the wherewithal for the development of clean energy technology.

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You can no more run an economy on thin air than Jeremy Corbyn’s money trees.

What most troubles me – always assuming the Government brings itself to remedying our perilous energy situation – is how a generation of politicians could be so gullible when

the very life of their government could be imperilled by blackouts, rationing or inflation from world energy shocks.

Yet only one of the seven PWR nuclear reactors envisaged by Margaret Thatcher was built at Sizewell.

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There was a mad dash for wind farms that have wrecked land and seascapes. So much for their environmentalism.

We shut down the Rough facility in the North Sea as a gas store and turned our back on fracking that has been such a boon to the USA.

Most irrationally of all, we subsidise the burning of imported wood chips at Drax thereby contributing to carbon dioxide’s atmospheric pollution.

It is as sorry a tale of our democracy’s capitulation to the impractical greens as the current surrender to the wokerati throughout our national institutions.

Let’s hope that on one front at least we get with it.