|Owen Paterson: "We want our country back from Europe"|
(image by Defra)
Finally, there is a glimmer of hope in UK government politics. David Cameron's Secretary of State for Environment, Owen Paterson, dares to speak out, both on EU and senseless subsidised wind energy. And he understands what a blessing shale gas could be for the UK:
He looks beyond the EU and sees prospects for trade with the anglo-sphere, and with the giants of China and India. The world is evolving fast, and so is the EU. Britain’s relationship with the EU will evolve too. “They are going to leave us… [the Commission] has come up with a very clear plan for what is effectively a new country.”
He has entered the debate about wind farms and shale gas with an enthusiasm that has delighted Tory MPs and terrified environmental campaigners in equal measure.
Given that wind energy is central to the Coalition’s energy policy, his contempt is striking. “These turbines are being built because of subsidy and it is causing huge public consternation. They are inappropriate technology which matured in the Middle Ages, they are inappropriate for many areas of inland Britain and they are doing real damage.” He speaks of those who have had their lives blighted, and says residents should have the power to veto proposed wind farms.
Likewise, he is evangelical about the potential of shale gas, demonstrated in the United States. Mr Paterson believes Britain’s reserves of shale gas could have a similar positive effect here, if only we would let the private sector get on with exploration and extraction.
Mr Paterson argues that the investment in shale gas would revive struggling rural communities. “It could be absolute huge,” he says. “It is totally unlike windfarms. It depends on no public subsidy. It runs in tune with the economy, and it provides an energy source which is reliable.” To encourage development he has set up an office in Defra to speed up the licensing application process.
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