How are we going to keep the lights on? Unions are calling for the Government to stop two Russian tankers – containing enough liquid gas to supply the UK for up to 12 days – from docking in Kent this weekend.
That comes after the Government prevented a Russian gas tanker from docking in Orkney.
One of the live discussions in Westminster is how Britain is going to meet its energy needs now that relying on Russian gas is out of the question after it invaded Ukraine.
Britain is not as badly affected as other countries – it only relies on gas for 3 per cent of its needs from Russia – which accounts for 40 per cent of Europe’s natural gas consumption.
But the surging oil and gas price means that energy bills – already rising by 50 per cent next month – could now jump another 30 per cent this autumn.
Ministers are not agreed on the way forward. Brexit Opportunities minister Jacob Rees-Mogg is leading the charge for a return to fracking which was halted in 2019 “on the basis of the disturbance caused to residents”.
Rees-Mogg attended a meeting on Tuesday night with Cuadrilla, the fracking company, with Craig Mackinlay, the Conservative MP who leads the Net Zero Scrutiny Group.
A friend of Rees-Mogg tells me he does not “want a fight” with Kwarteng but adds that “we need energy security and lower prices”.
For his part, Mackinlay wants to stop the Oil & Gas Authority from enforcing the permanent and irreversible concreting up of Britain’s only horizontal shale wells. He describes this as “industrial vandalism”.
Mackinlay tells me: “Our sceptred isle was blessed with many gifts of nature. One of many is North Sea oil and gas, the other the Bowland shale basin.
“Shale gas could be the short to medium-term solution to our energy woes offering energy security, lower prices, jobs and tax revenues.
“I am increasingly bewildered by our incoherent energy policy of importation while gas will continue to be a fundamental part of our energy needs long into the future. New realities need a new dynamic policy. Let’s get fracking.”
This return to fracking is being fought by Kwasi Kwarteng, the Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Secretary, who has made it clear privately that his face is turned against any return to fracking.
He points out that unlike America – where fracked energy is a fact of life – the UK is far more densely populated, which is why there is such opposition here.
Kwarteng has been posting social media messages about the importance of North Sea oil and gas to the UK as the UK “transitions” towards its commitment of net zero reliance on energy by 2050.
“On North Sea gas, the choice is clear,” he says. “Either we support domestic production as we transition to clean energy, or turn off the taps.”
But he recognises that the investment environment is not helped by scepticism towards North Sea oil and gas by the SNP administration in Edinburgh, which shares power with the Green Party.
Already on the official Parliament website, an “End the ban on fracking” petition has been signed by nearly 7,000 people. “We want the Government to allow fracking to proceed in England, and implement planning reforms to enable shale gas developments,” the petition says.
Soon the effect of Vladimir Putin’s invasion is going to force the UK Government into revisiting some difficult choices.
TAP – Let Russia’s gas in. Ukraine is surrendering and the war will soon be over. The proposed gasfields are extensively mined over two hundred years and will cause endless earthquakes. All fracking had to stop as every test drill was met with earthquakes. The investors lost all their money. Do we need to go through it all again when the world is awash with gas. Only stupid politics mostly caused by Britain advocating the expansion of NATO into Russia’s back yard is driving up energy prices, and the refusal to source gas in the North Sea. Winter’s nearly through this year. Calm down, everyone. Fracking in Britain is a nonsense.