Socialist Worker

Tories’ dash for gas is a disaster for the climate

by Suzanne Jeffery, Campaign Against Climate Change trade union group
Issue No. 2299

There are alternatives to oil  (Pic: http://www.flickr.com/photos/mrcrashflickr.com/mrcrash )

There are alternatives to oil (Pic: flickr.com/mrcrash)


The government pretends that its energy policies are good for keeping prices low, cutting carbon emissions and creating jobs.

But in reality they are only helping those determined to trash the planet for profit—the rich multinationals of the fossil fuel industry.

George Osborne has promised huge subsidies for deep sea oil and gas exploration off the coast of the Shetland Isles.

Any easily-accessible oil and gas has long been extracted, so any new fields would be far more difficult and expensive to reach.

This creates pressure to relax the safety boundaries, as witnessed by the Deepwater Horizon disaster in 2010 and the current gas leak in the North Sea.

The big six electricity companies have been promised a new “dash for gas”, with cuts to the regulations on carbon emissions.

Osborne defended this decision by saying gas was a cheap form of electricity.

This will come as a huge surprise to the millions of ordinary people struggling to pay rising electricity bills. Gas prices form the basis of much of the energy price increase.

Subsidy

Oil and gas receive a £3.2 billion subsidy. But renewable energy has been undermined.

The tariff which had encouraged many to have solar panels fitted has been cut.

The success of solar energy was cited as a reason why it no longer needed a subsidy. But this logic is never applied to gas and oil.

And the 100 Tory MPs who lobbied against wind power had a success—wind was completely ignored.

One of Cameron’s dinner guests exposed in the “dinners for donors” scandal was hedge fund executive Michael Hintze. He is also one of the key financial backers of former Tory chancellor Nigel Lawson’s climate sceptic website.

And look at who was granted an audience with the chancellor before the budget—oil giants Exxon Mobil and Total and the lobbyists Oil and Gas UK.

The Tories are in the pocket of the fossil fuel industry which causes climate change.

Last year the normally conservative International Energy Agency warned that, with carbon emissions at their highest ever, the goal of preventing “dangerous climate change” by holding temperature rises below 2 degrees Celsius was becoming a “nice utopia”.

It highlighted the problem of “lock-in”.

Investment in fossil fuels today, it pointed out, “locks in” further carbon emission rises in the future by creating long term reliance on them.

That is exactly what the government has just done.


The solution is to create climate jobs

The Tories defend their subsidies to the fossil fuel industries by claiming that it will create jobs.

The same justification is used to defend the expansion of hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking”, as companies find ever more dangerous and damaging ways to extract the last remaining reserves of oil and gas.

In areas blighted by unemployment, arguments like these can be persuasive.But they should ring hollow.

These are promises of jobs from a government happy to see young unemployed people used as unpaid labour on “workfare” schemes.

And the kind of work in question threatens the future of the young people the government claims to help.

There is an alternative.

The Campaign against Climate Change trade union group has produced a million climate jobs report, supported by four national trade unions.

It identifies how the creation of a national climate service could provide a million people with well‑paid employment that would reduce emissions.

Some of these jobs would be in energy efficiency, providing our homes with the insulation needed to reduce energy use and to help tackle fuel poverty.

Many jobs could be created by developing a public transport system which could provide people with affordable, available and accessible transport.

There are jobs in education, training and skills and in agriculture.

Crucially, many jobs could be created in renewable energies that don’t produce damaging emissions.

These industries are being ignored, not because they can’t provide the amount of energy we need but because they challenge the profits of the fossil fuel corporations.

The million climate jobs report is available for £2.50 from Bookmarks the socialist bookshop, and free to download at www.bit.ly/climate-jobs


Click here to subscribe to our daily morning email newsletter 'Breakfast in red'

Article information

News
Tue 17 Apr 2012, 17:51 BST
Issue No. 2299
Share this article


Related


Mobile users! Don't forget to add Socialist Worker to your home screen.