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Gordon Brown in a hurry to get nowhere

Times Online
May 29, 2008

Gordon Brown in a hurry to get nowhere

When the going gets tough, Gordon Brown gets going. Yesterday he got going to Aberdeen for the board meeting of Oil & Gas UK, an industrial lobby group in which he has shown scant interest hitherto, other than as a useful cash register into which he could dip his fingers.

Perhaps the Prime Minister was checking out the city as a potential site for a new nuclear reactor? He did mention yesterday that he wanted a “more ambitious” push for nuclear power – a nuke would keep Aberdeen on the energy map and its construction might employ scores of Scottish building workers, the sort of lads who vote Labour and might lose their jobs when the oil and gas runs out.

More likely, Mr Brown fled London for Scotland because he got a fright. White van man arrived in London in convoy on Tuesday, yelling about fuel prices and fuel taxes. Angry truckers are a scary sight, particularly for a Prime Minister who knows there is little he can do about their grievance other than spend money he hasn’t got.

No matter what the Government says, there is no solution to the problem of dear energy. Nuclear power is expensive and will not be here for at least a decade; renewables are also very expensive – Shell has pulled out of a big scheme in England which made no economic sense; and the Russians have all the gas.

A sensible politician would sit tight, show sympathy in a statesmanlike manner but do little, barring perhaps a little more help for the elderly, knowing that the market would soon work its brutal magic and the economy would painfully adjust to the new reality of expensive energy.

But Mr Brown feels obliged to get on the shuttle to Aberdeen.

With his chancellor carrying the bag, Mr Brown seemed keen to make some amends for his previous raids on the oil company coffers. He promised to tweak the tax rules to enable oil producers to extract some extra value from a small number of very old oilfields that are reaching the end of their lives.

Two small developments, previously held back because their economics failed to add up, are going ahead. But it is piddling stuff, irrelevant to the 1.6million barrels Britain consumes each day.

Expensive oil and gas will change our lives. Car manufacturers will finally get a grip and we will insulate our homes and take holidays in Britain. It won’t be so bad.

But this will all happen much too slowly for Mr Brown. So there will be a lot more rushing around.

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