Putting the wind up fracking – Telegraph

When on earth will ministers stop shooting themselves in both feet over fracking? The latest to be caught hopping about with a smoking shotgun seems to be Amber Rudd, the junior energy minister who replaced the excellent and knowledgeable Greg Barker in the last reshuffle. In a spat this week with her nominal boss, the Energy Secretary Ed Davey, over wind power she is reported to have insisted that, while diversification of supply was important it should only be done with the support of local communities.

In so saying she echoes a Downing Street briefing nearly 18 months ago, in which the government indicated that local people would have to be consulted before new wind farms are built, and that these will be barred if there is significant opposition. “No means no” explained John Hayes, a former junior energy minister (and old sparring partner of Davey’s) turned adviser to the Prime Minister. “No longer will councils and communities be bullied into accepting developments because national energy policy trumps local opinion.”

That’s all very welcome. For far too long have communities been at the mercy of a greedy and arrogant wind industry. And all the evidence, from places like Denmark and Germany, is that renewables work best when communities don’t just accept them but actually have a share in owning them. So ministers are not just on the right track, but need to go further.

But have they spared a thought for the effect their promises will have on the prospects for shale oil and gas. Polls show that fracking is only half as popular as wind turbines. Worse, two thirds of Britons say they would prefer to live near a wind farm than a fracking well, with only 11 per cent going the other way. And while it took many years for strong opposition to turbines to emerge, hundreds of anti-fracking groups have sprung up around the country long before commercial production of shale gas or oil can get under way.

Yet even as ministers assert the right of communities to reject wind, they show every sign of being determined to override them on fracking in direct contravention of what first Mr Hayes and now Ms Rudd have promised.

The effect can only be to strengthen the protesters even more. Anti-fracking groups will be inflamed by what they see as an injustice and will understandably reason that if opposition can have that effect on wind farms, fighting on will give them an equivalent triumph over shale. And the public – who can easily recognise, and will certainly dislike, a blatant tipping of the playing field is likely to sympathise even more. See what I mean about shotguns and feet?

via Putting the wind up fracking – Telegraph.