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« Only a few weeks to get that all important Christmas Present for someone close to you | Main | Clinton in Prague to lobby for Westinghouse nuclear bid »

Gas-fired power stations to be encouraged by government

The government is to unveil its contentious gas strategy this week.

Chancellor George Osborne has ruled that gas should continue to play a role in day-to-day electricity generation beyond 2030.

He has over-ruled official climate change advisers who want gas to be used almost exclusively to back up nuclear and renewables by then.

Also in the next two weeks, DECC will rule on whether controversial drilling for shale gas will go ahead in the UK.

Environmentalists say shale gas could become a bruising political battleground.

The process involves extracting gas from rocks using small explosions and then pumping in water and chemicals.

Shale gas has bought the USA cheap energy but it has also caused polluted water supplies in places and caused earth tremors. Problems have been blamed by the industry on bad practice rather than bad principles.

Test drilling in the UK near Blackpool was stopped after two minor tremors, and Energy Secretary Ed Davey has been examining what safeguards are needed if it is to play a part in the UK.

Central role

The timing of the two announcements has been determined by politics. The energy department DECC originally planned to fold the issue of gas into its over-arching Energy Bill published last week.

DECC planned to follow advice from the official advisory Climate Change Committee to strictly limit the role of gas for electricity.

But the chancellor has demanded that gas should have its own separate strategy to ensure that it plays a central role.

The strategy will officially be published by DECC but a senior DECC source told me: "This is the chancellor's personal obsession. We have just let him get on with it. We don't really object."

Mr Osborne has talked of wanting the UK to become a gas "hub", bringing gas into Europe.

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We tend to agree with this comment found later on in the article;

In a sting operation Greenpeace secretly filmed Lord Howell warning that the UK was dependent on gas from Qatar so that, "if jihadis took over Qatar we would be up shit creek."

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