In her Sunday Times article Rudd boasts that: “Shale could create more than 60,000 new jobs in the UK and generate billions of pounds for our economy.”
Yet at present proposed developments get tied up in the planning system for too long.
The piece also suggests that the Government is wise to the lesson that Nick Faith set out on this site in July: that the British are no nation of nimbies, and can be won round to developments with sufficient local responsiveness and incentives. Rudd writes:
“Operators will pay communities £100,000 for each exploration well site plus 1% of production revenue, worth £5m-£10m, to be used as the community sees fit. Councils will keep 100% of the business rate revenues from them. And as we work to build a northern powerhouse, we are also creating a shale sovereign wealth fund for the north of England, so its shale gas resources are used to invest in its future.”
Especially interesting is the way that the Secretary addresses the environmental dimension of her new fracking drive.
Energy policy is, as the Financial Times argues this morning, often a tug of war between the competing interests of the green lobby and those who prioritise price and supply security.
Rudd recently attacked the former for its “proto-socialist” image, and for often looking as if the environment were merely a convenient justification for authoritarian, anti-capitalist policies which their advocates would have supported in any event.
In her article, she paints shale as a sort of bridging technology, stepping into the gap created by the closure of coal and nuclear plants until renewable energy can pick up the slack. In her words:
“We need a replacement — an energy system that is fit for the 21st century. One that powers the economy with cutting-edge technology and makes sure Britain reaps the economic benefits of a global clean-energy revolution.”
Such an approach is not without precedent – it appears similar to a doctrine called “ecological modernisation”, an optimistic school of environmental thought that rejects the authoritarian misanthropy found in much of the Green movement.
Unfortunately, it has not often been seized upon by the political right, who have broadly ceded the intellectual field on green issues to the left. The result is either capitulation to left-wing policies or, as in the United States, the near-complete association of green issues with one side of the partisan divide.
The development of a distinct, centre-right approach to green issues would be a valuable broadening of the Conservative offer. As David Cameron is a Prime Minister who likes to leave his ministers in place, perhaps Rudd will have space during this Parliament to expand upon hers.