September 26: Drax and burning issues on energy policy

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WHAT is Britain’s energy policy?

With subsidies for onshore wind farms being blocked, support for the solar industry scaled back and George Osborne trying to persuade the Chinese to invest in a new generation of nuclear power stations, this burning question becomes even more pertinent following the decision of Drax power station to withdraw its support from a pioneering carbon capture scheme critical to the future production of clean energy in Yorkshire and the safeguarding of traditional manufacturing industries.

Though backers of the ‘White Rose’ scheme remain confident that the Drax decision is not a terminal blow, confidence has been undermined by David Cameron’s government looking to appease restless Tory backbenchers, longstanding opponents of wind farms and green energy, following five years in which energy policy was left at the mercy of the Liberal Democrats.

However this is not the time for complacency.

Unless a coherent strategy is agreed, and then implemented, Britain will become even more dependent on gas and electricity imports to keep the lights burning – an unacceptable situation in an uncertain world when leaders like Russia’s Vladimir Putin are prepared to hold supplies to ransom.

It’s also another setback to the Chancellor’s Northern Powerhouse strategy – clean energy, and a guarantee of supplies, is supposed to be one of the principles propping up this project. The political context is critical as Mr Osborne looks to assert his authority – no long-term economic plan, however meritorious, can be delivered without a long-term energy policy and the Government need to recognise this at the earliest opportunity. For, unless it does, the prospect of factories and other higher-energy users having to restrict their hours of operating, thereby impinging upon their productivity, will move a step nearer. It’s that serious.

Ukip and Nigel Farage are here to stay

NIGEL FARAGE was his usual ebullient self as Ukip returned to Doncaster for its annual conference. Twelve months after declaring that his party represented a “threat to the entire British political class” following the defection of two Tory turncoats, he did not allow the fact that Ukip returned a solitary MP at the General Election to dampen the spirits of delegates. Even if the totemic referendum on Britain’s membership of the European Union was only secured with the election of a majority Conservative government, four million people did vote for Ukip and only the vagaries of the first-past-the-post electoral system prevented the organisation from returning more MPs.

Moving forward, Ukip will continue to pose a major threat to both Labour and the Tories. It is now clear that many of the votes accrued by Mr Farage’s party came from disillusioned Labour supporters – and that concerns about immigration underpinned this switch in allegiance. There is little likelihood of them returning to the Labour fold when Jeremy Corbyn’s Shadow Cabinet can barely agree on the day of the week.

Likewise, those Tories – and others – who want Britain to remain at the heart of Europe will have to come up with a way of neutralising the Eurosceptics. Time is not on their side as the no nonsense Mr Farage looks to broaden his support base by fielding candidates in next May’s police and crime commissioner elections – those who thought the EU referendum would mark the end of Ukip and Mr Farage are mistaken. Both are here to stay, especially if the party succeeds in broadening its policy base.

Is the tide turning for North Sea cod?

THE SIGNIFICANCE of the decision to remove North Sea cod off a red list of “fish to avoid” will not be lost on those East Coast ports that were caught up in the so-called Cod Wars of the 1960s and 70s. Though they will welcome the Marine Conservation Society’s move, it is far too late for many trawlermen – their vessels have long rotted away following the virtual collapse of this country’s once proud fishing industry.

Yet this announcement is also a victory for perseverance – and those conservationists who continue to work tirelessly to maintain fish stocks at sustainable levels. Without this endeavour, take-away shops might no longer be able to sell battered cod and chips – a meal synonymous with Yorkshire and this region’s way of life. However this battle is far from being won, despite England and Iceland’s fishing fleets no longer being on a war footing – the recovery is a fragile one and further conservation measures are essential if the tide is to turn still further in cod’s favour.