A beacon of realism in a sea of greens



23:50 GMT, 4 December 2012

In an ideal world, no Chancellor in his right mind would propose a ‘dash for gas’ as the answer to Britain’s energy needs.

As green activists are quick to point out, unrenewable gas is far from the cleanest of fuels – and the new power stations planned by George Osborne will end any hope of meeting legally-binding targets on carbon emissions.

They will also leave us at the mercy of fluctuating global prices and the often volatile regimes that supply our gas.

No chance: The new power stations planned by George Osborne will end any hope of meeting legally-binding targets on carbon emissions

No chance: The new power stations planned by George Osborne will end any hope of meeting legally-binding targets on carbon emissions

Meanwhile the Chancellor’s hopes of exploiting domestic shale gas raise deeply disturbing questions about the impact on the environment of the controversial technique used to extract it.

Indeed, trial drilling near Blackpool was halted after fracking caused two minor earthquakes and raised fears that drinking water could be contaminated.

Yet after decades in which politicians ducked a decision on an energy strategy, this paper believes a dash for gas is not merely the cheapest and quickest option.

Until longer-term answers are found, it may be our only realistic hope of keeping the lights on as our ageing coal and nuclear stations near the end of their working lives.

Certainly, Mr Osborne displays infinitely more sense than Tory climate change minister Greg Barker, who proclaims wind turbines to be ‘wonderful’ and ‘rather majestic’.

Opinions may differ on these monstrosities as works of art. But as answers to the power crisis, they are plain useless.

In a Commons stuffed with green fantasists, who won’t face the truth about keeping a modern economy going, Mr Osborne shines out for his realism.

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So much for the Conservatives’ pledge to cut annual net immigration to only ‘tens of thousands’ by 2015.

If a Tory MP’s predictions are correct, the number of settlers from Romania and Bulgaria will almost treble to 425,000 after transitional controls on the new EU members’ rights to travel and work are lifted at the end of next year.

Phillip Hollobone bases his calculations on migration patterns since 2004, when eight other countries from the former Soviet bloc joined the EU.

At the time, the Blair Government predicted just 13,000 extra arrivals each year. In the event, at least a million have settled so far, representing an astonishing 1.5 per cent of the entire population of the EU’s eastern European members.

How is a small island like ours – with its jobs, schools, housing and other public services already under immense strain – meant to cope with another influx on anything like the same massive scale

Unveiling his plans to concrete over vast swathes of our countryside, planning minister Nick Boles pointed out last week that migrants already account for 43 per cent of new housing needs. ‘We can’t go on like this,’ he said.

Never has an MP spoken truer words.

How long can Britain remain recognisable as the country we love, while Brussels stays in charge of our borders

Well saved, Mr Gove

When it comes to cutting bureaucracy, Education Secretary Michael Gove has been one of the most ruthless and effective ministers in the Coalition.

Today he is to get his reward, as Mr Osborne hands him 1billion to create 100 new academies and free schools.

Making education the big winner from the Treasury’s 5billion war chest sends a clear message to voters – and an even clearer one to the rest of the Cabinet.

If ministers want money to spend where it can do most good, they must first save it where it does none at all.