The Conservative Party's unexpected outright victory in the UK's recent General Election should provide some cause for comfort among people working in the country's oil and gas industry, both offshore and onshore.
By achieving a majority of seats in the House of Commons (albeit a rather tiny majority), the Tories are now free to pursue an energy policy for the UK unencumbered by the views and wishes of a coalition partner – as they had to during the last five years when they were in government with the Liberal Democrats.
Of course, any political party securing a majority in the House of Commons on its own would provide oil and gas companies – along with many companies in other industries – with the stable political and legislative framework they need in order to plan their business strategies. But the Conservative Party is composed of members who have traditionally believed hydrocarbons are an important and necessary component of the UK's energy mix, and who are also less keen on so-called renewable forms of energy – particularly onshore wind farms.
The new Conservative government has seen the promotion of former Climate Change Minister Amber Rudd into role of Secretary of State for Energy. This has been hailed as good news by environmentalists keen to see the UK continue and expand its use of renewable energy technologies. Indeed, Rudd has indicated that she favours an increase in the use of household solar panels and has even vowed to "unleash a solar revolution" across Britain.
However, a close look at the Conservative Party Manifesto – which was released to voters in the run-up to the General Election – leaves no doubt that the Tories will be pursuing an overall agenda that will include the further exploitation of the UK's hydrocarbon resources, and a curtailing of the development of certain renewable energy projects.
Support for Shale Gas
While pointing out that they were previously the senior partner in the "greenest government ever", the Conservatives now state that they are supporters of "good-value green energy" and are clearly mindful of public concern about energy bills that have become inflated by renewable energy tariffs. Meanwhile, the manifesto clearly states that the Conservative government "will halt the spread of onshore windfarms", pointing out that onshore windfarms often fail to win public support and are unable (by themselves) to provide the firm capacity that a stable energy system requires. The Conservatives plan to "end any new public subsidy for [onshore wind farms] and intend to change the law so that local people have the final say on windfarm applications".
The manifesto also pointed out that tax cuts – made by Conservative Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne during the last government – have "encouraged record levels of investment in existing North Sea gas", while promoting the birth of the shale gas industry in the UK.
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