Lord Howell under fire for North East wind energy industry attacks

August 5, 2013 by  
Filed under Green Energy News

The Tory peer who described the North East as “large, uninhabited and desolate” has come under fire again – for his attempts to undermine the region’s growing offshore wind energy industry.

Business and council leaders are banking on offshore wind farms to create thousands of jobs in the region. But Lord Howell of Guildford, who caused outrage when he told the House of Lords that the “desolate” North East was the perfect place to carry out fracking, has repeatedly urged the Government to cut support for the industry.

The peer, Energy Secretary under Margaret Thatcher and a Government Minister as recently as last September, has used his House of Lords seat to urge Ministers to stick to fossil fuels. Last night he was criticised by Newcastle East MP Nick Brown, who said: “He’s just on the wrong side of the debate.”

Lord Howell, once a Tory MP in Guildford, near London, was widely condemned after he said the North East should be used for fracking – to spare more picturesque parts. He said: “In beautiful rural areas there are worries not just about drilling and fracking – which I think are exaggerated – but about trucks, deliveries, roads and disturbance, which are quite justified.

“However, there are large, uninhabited and desolate areas, certainly in parts of the North East, where there is plenty of room for fracking.”

Fracking is a process of extracting gas from rock formations deep beneath the surface. The peer later insisted he meant to say the North West rather than the North East.

We can reveal Lord Howell has repeatedly attacked attempts to increase use of wind power, even though supporters say it will bring enormous economic benefits to the country, and the North East in particular, as well as reducing the carbon emissions.

Last week, the Government announced £66m in support for the offshore wind industry, saying it could create 30,000 jobs in the North East, Great Yarmouth, the Humber and Merseyside. In January 2010, after a particularly cold winter, he told the House of Lords: “One feature of the recent cold spell has been the minuscule contribution of wind power to the nation’s very high energy needs. I know that it is not strictly the Secretary of State’s business, but does he think that his energy colleagues will draw any conclusions from that?”

Later he added: “Has not the recent spell shown that wind power is incapable in cold spells of delivering even a tiny fraction of its installed capacity to provide the nation’s vital electricity needs? His answer to me that the solution is to build more wind power seems quite perverse.”

In March 2010 he complained: “If we rely on more wind farms they will need gas turbine back-ups in cold weather.” In February 2009 he said: “At present, fossil fuel prices — oil, gas and coal prices – are 75% lower than they were a year ago, which means that the premium for renewables such as wind power has to be vastly increased. Is there not a difficulty there about how that will be raised?”

Mr Brown said: “He is part of this very high-handed group of climate change deniers whose advice it would be very foolish to listen to. And he’s clearly pretty dismissive of the North East of England.

He now says he meant the North West but that doesn’t make it any better. He wants to get himself to Manchester and Liverpool and see the huge urban communities in the North West of England just as it wouldn’t hurt him to get to the North East and see the big concentrated conurbations on Tyne and Wear and Teeside.”

Lord Howell was not available for comment.

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