Davey backs fracking but Lib Dems vote no to a new runway

Gas from fracking good, airport expansion bad and coal generation should be outlawed, party conference hears.

Fracking is not a magic bullet but simple opposition to shale gas is also wrong, energy minister Ed Davey told the Liberal Democrat Conference on Tuesday. The country will need shale gas to make up the shortfall in North Sea supplies and it will also allow a Lib Dem government to outlaw coal generation, he said.


The real fossil fuel enemy is coal – coal is the climate destroyer.

That’s why I’m pleased to announce that if the Liberal Democrats are in government after the election, we will legislate to ban the generation of electricity from coal from 2025," Davey told the conference in Glasgow.

“But renewables cannot quickly replace all of the electricity we currently get from coal without carbon, capture and storage. We will need gas, as a bridge to a zero fossil fuel future, at least for the next two or three decades. That’s reality. 

And I’d far rather use Britain’s gas, than Putin’s gas. Or even Middle East gas. 

Our own gas is much more secure. And, thanks to our tougher environmental regulations, and not having to ship it round the world, our own gas is better for the climate.

 As North Sea gas production falls, we simply cannot afford to turn our back on our own, home grown gas supplies.”

Davey also took a swipe at Communities Secretary Eric Pickles for his opposition to onshore wind farms.

“Onshore wind has been growing fast under us,” he said. It now generates around 5% of our electricity, and it’s still growing," he said. "But the Tories don’t like this. Day after day they’ve urged me to cap onshore wind. I’ve just said no.

Not just because it’s vital for climate change. But also to keep energy bills down, as onshore wind is now the cheapest large scale green energy option.


Davies added: “Mr Pickles doesn’t seem worried about climate or energy bills. 

Mr Pickles – who claims to be a champion of localism – has been calling in every onshore wind planning application he can. Interfering with the independent Planning Inspectorate process. Over-riding decisions of elected councillors.

Mr Pickles is in danger of bringing the planning system into disrepute. Of abusing ministerial power. And so preventing Britain getting the green power revolution it needs.


No to new runway

Meanwhile the Liberal Democrat leadership was overwhelmingly defeated over its support for the building of a new runway at Gatwick and the party was castigated for pre-empting and prejudging the decision of the Airports Commission which is due to report next year.

The Lib Dems have previously opposed any new runway in the south-east, but the party leadership supported an amendment to a policy motion that would open up the possibility of supporting Gatwick expansion, one of the options being reviewed by the Airports Commission along with two Heathrow alternatives .

Schools Minister David Laws downplayed the result, telling Radio 4's The World At One: " There were some of us, frankly, who thought that because we've got the Davies Review set up at the moment to report on the issue of whether or not their needs to be greater runway capacity, particular in the South East of England, that it was more sensible to wait until we got that review in later on next year before making final decisions.

"The conference today took a clear position which was the existing party position, which was that they were very concerned about carbon emissions from air travel and actually they thought, therefore, they wanted to maintain the position that we previously had and obviously we respect that."

He confirmed that the party would take the position forward for its manifesto.

John Cridland, CBI Director-General, said: “Growing airport capacity in the South East is critical to the UK's economic future. Business will be extremely disappointed that the Liberal Democrat delegates fail to recognise this.

“It is unhelpful to pre-judge the decision of the Airports Commission, which the Liberal Democrats helped to set up. All parties must endorse the Commission's final recommendation when it reports back next summer.”

Darren Caplan, chief executive of the Airport Operators Association, the trade body for UK airports, said: “The AOA is naturally disappointed that the Liberal Democrats pre-manifesto rules out airport expansion. Aviation is crucial to UK plc, supporting 1M jobs, £50bn in GDP and £8bn in Treasury revenues, and the party’s position fails to realise the economic and connectivity benefits a growing aviation sector can deliver for UK plc, nor the enormous strides the industry is taking to deal with its carbon and noise impacts.

“We continue to urge the Airports Commission to stick to its timetable, report soon after the General Election next year, and for the political parties to act on its recommendations, when published.”