UK Energy in Wonderland

Thursday, 19 December, 2013

Its been a strange week for British energy policy, featuring an epistolary David Cameron, an army of Father Christmases and a fraud accused oil company.

David Cameron implored the EU this week to follow Britain’s example and open up Europe to fracking for shale gas. In a letter to European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso, Cameron said 'I am not in favour of new legislation where the lengthy timeframes and significant uncertainty involved are major causes for concern,' adding that EU-wide legislation would harm investment into Britain’s energy industry: ‘The industry in the UK has told us that new EU legislation would immediately delay imminent investment.’

His call comes right as Britain announces that the next round of shale gas exploring licenses will be distributed this summer. Two tribes will be pleased with this announcement: energy companies and the media. The former can look forward to new profitable opportunities, whilst the latter will be preparing for another round of headline grabbing rural protests with unshaven and vociferous ‘rent a mobs’ likely to adorn our front pages.

Local activist group London Mining Network are a tribe who will disdain this development, and signalled of the spectacles to come by delivering coal to HSBC's London HQ earlier in the week… all dressed as Father Christmas. They transported the notorious hydrocarbon on a dump truck, protesting ‘to highlight the bank’s massive financing of fossil fuels and to call on it to pull out of coal, the fuel most damaging to the global climate.’

But perhaps their ire would have been better directed elsewhere following the news that Britain will be purchasing energy from a consortium that includes the controversial Azeri state energy company Socar. Global Witness published a report last week that suspected the company for possible fraud on a massive scale, particularly through a mysterious figure called Anar Aliyev. State profits from their oil revenue should be developing a poor nation, but evidence of major cronyism and underselling to favoured clients have surfaced, raising questions as to why Britain and Europe are willing to do business with Socar before they have been cleared of wrongdoing.