Civil servants must not stand in the way of energy reform

Most countries are now having to contend with the consequences of the sudden increase in energy prices. But it is a damning indictment of the Westminster establishment that so little was done in the decades before the present crisis to bolster the country’s energy security. Now, that same myopic establishment threatens to stand in the way of potential solutions.

As the industrialist Sir Jim Ratcliffe writes in today’s newspaper, the UK was once a pioneer in nuclear energy, yet it fell from political fashion and new stations were not built. We enjoyed an abundance of North Sea gas, too, but we have slipped from a net exporter to importing half of our requirements. Perhaps worst of all, we botched our golden opportunity to exploit domestic shale resources. In the US, poor communities have been transformed by fracking; here, significant reserves were identified, but activists scared the authorities into imposing a moratorium.

Likewise, the entrepreneur Lord Bamford tells this newspaper that he fears the UK is falling behind our European rivals on hydrogen because ministers are obsessed with electricity replacing fossil fuels. We have previously reported that civil servants are opposed to so-called “blue hydrogen”, produced from natural gas.

This is all lamentable and illustrates the dangers of a centrally planned energy policy. This crisis is going to be painful for consumers and businesses. The Government should be open to all potential solutions, not capitulating to the demands of extreme climate activists or allowing bureaucrats to impose their prejudices on the rest of us.

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