US Republican candidate Donald Trump has been widely attacked for his environmental credentials; including his professed support for the fracking industry. However, in an interview for 9News Trump has set out a position that is more democratic than the current policy position of the UK government.
While thousands of protestors gathered in York to protest North Yorkshire Council’s decision to permit fracking near the small village of Kirkby Misperton – a decision that was taken in the face of local opposition and influenced by the knowledge that central government would have given permission anyway – Trump hinted that decisions about fracking should be left to local people:
“I’m in favor of fracking, but voters should have a big say in it. Some areas maybe they don’t want to have fracking. And I think if the voters are voting for it, that’s up to them… Fracking is something that’s here whether we like it or not, but if a municipality or a state wants to ban fracking, I can understand that.”
In the UK by contrast, the Cameron government had passed laws to prevent widespread local opposition standing in the way of fracking. However, among her first energy-related decisions, Teresa May has slammed the brakes on the widely opposed Hinkley Point C nuclear power station. She has also appointed new junior ministers – Nick Hurd and Baroness Neville-Rolfe – to be in charge of climate policy and energy policy respectively. Both appointments have received a cautious welcome from environmental groups. Hurd, a supporter of the Conservative Environment Network, has a track record of supporting ambitious action to tackle climate change. Former Tesco senior executive Neville-Rolfe played a leading role in developing the supermarket chain’s environmental performance and response to climate change.
It is too early to say whether the new appointments signal a shift in policy away from environmentally damaging fossil fuel industries. However, there are plenty of pro-fracking, anti-environment MPs on the Tory benches who could have been appointed had May intended to go for an all-out ‘dash for gas’. Moreover, the alignment of energy and industry suggests a more hard-headed approach to the economics of the energy industry that will inevitably find most UK fracking wanting.