Dash for gas exposes cracks in the Coalition

Dash for gas exposes cracks in the Coalition

COLLISION COURSE: George Osborne’s decision to go for gas will be a huge upset for the Energy Secretary

Lib Dem Ed Davey

First published in Business News The Northern Echo: Photograph of the Author by

NEW North-East gas power stations will get the go ahead from The Chancellor in a bold move that puts him on a collision course with his Coalition partners. 

The proposals being made alongside this afternoon's Autumn Statement, which are expected to include plans for a new body to oversee the controversial process that extracts shale gas from rock, come as Energy Secretary Ed Davey and many of his Lib Dem colleagues want to see taxpayers' cash used to support renewable energy sources, such as wind, biomass and solar.

Mr Davey announced in last week's Energy Bill that investment in low carbon power will treble to £7.6bn by 2020, but his failure to commit the government to carbon reduction targets opened a window of opportunity for the development of new gas-fired plants. 

If George Osborne gets his way, half of the UK's energy could be coming from gas powered sources by 2030. The strategy risks further undermining The Prime Minister's claim, made shortly after taking power, that he would lead "the greenest government ever." 

The Chancellor will give the go ahead for up to 30 gas-fired power stations with plans by energy firms ConocoPhillips and Eon to build two new facilities at Seal Sands, near Billiingham among the projects set to be approved. The decision will provide a boost to the beleaguered construction industry and bring new jobs to the region.   

Greenpeace spokesman Leila Deen, said the dash for gas had pitted the  Chancellor against his Coalition colleagues and the majority of the British public.

"His proposals will drastically increase this country's reliance on expensive, polluting gas, which in turn could push up bills, scare off low-carbon investors and make a mockery of the UK's climate change commitments," she said. 

Mr Osborne is determined to encourage investment in gas through tax incentives and a new regulatory system that supports efforts to extract gas from shale through the so-called fracking process.

The announcement will be welcomed by Conservative MPs who see gas as a means of cutting household energy bills, but it will dismay environmentalists and Lib Dems alarmed by reports that fracking has been linked with mini-earthquakes in Lancashire. 

"The right wing of the Tory party are trying to make out shale gas is the answer, but I’m afraid the evidence does not bear it out," Mr Davey said earlier this year. 

Full details will emerge when Mr Osborne unveils his spending plans to Parliament from 12.30pm on Wednesday.

Follow today's live news blog on The Northern Echo website as experts from PwC give a minute-by-minute guide to the Autumn Statement.

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