As activists enter their fifth day protesting atop a UK gas power station the government remains wedded to a ‘dash for gas’.
The answer lies with a powerful group of advisors, donors, non-executive directors and ministers with postitions in – or access to – central government: the gas mafia. All these mafia dons have current or recent financial ties to the fossil fuel industry.
The gas mafia’s vested interests are often centred around companies drilling for unconventional gas, such as Dart Energy or Cuadrilla Resources. Others are lobbyists in government positions whose paymasters include gas companies.
This behind-the-scenes influence produces policies as clear as they are brazen: the UK government will support the gas mafia’s financial interests no matter what.
Tory donor & President, Vitol
Taylor is a key donor to the Conservative party having contributed £550,000 to conservative coffers. Taylor stands to gain by the UK’s rush towards onshore gas – his company owns nearly 5% of Dart Energy, which plans 22 Coal Bed Methane wells in Scotland. Taylor’s cash seems effective – after a recent meeting with Cameron the company won new contracts in post-revolutionary Libya.
Non-executive director at BG Group, non-executive director, Treasury
Hogg sits at the side of George Osborne as a non-executive director on the Treasury. She also works for gas giant BG Group, earning £122,000 as a non-executive director (see p 80 of link). Hogg will benefit from the UK’s dash for gas – BG have an agreement with Dart Energy to buy gas produced in the future, having signed a Heads of Terms for a future supplies (see p12 of link). BG Group also have more than £200m of fracking assets in the US.
David Cameron Special Advisor (SPAD) on energy
As Cameron’s SPAD, Moxham has the PM’s ear on energy matters. The PM’s SPADs are temporary – unelected – civil servants: Moxham is a protoge of Lord Browne (see below) and previously worked alongside Browne on the board of Riverstone, which owns 40% of UK fracker Cuadrilla.
It seems likely Moxham has financial interests in Riverstone (SPADs are not required to disclose their interests); as such the ‘dash for gas’ stands give to significantly financial benifit to the 32-year-old Londoner.
Personal advisor on energy to Foreign Minister William Hague
Howell is a gas lobbyist and Chancellor George Osborne’s father in law. He’s president of the British Institute of Energy Economics, whose sponsors include BP, Shell and BG Group. Howell recently moved from being Foreign Office Minister of State to personal advisor to the Foreign Minster William Hague after he was paid ‘in error’ £24,000 – for a job he was supposed to be doing unsalaried. It is unclear what salary he receives in his new position. More gas is likely to bring a grin to his sponsors – and significantly benefit their balance sheets.
Non-executive director, Cabinet Office
Browne sits unashamedly on the board of Riversone, 40% owner of UK fracker Cuadrilla, and has been vocal in calling for new gas supplies for the UK. He’s also a former president of the Royal Academy of Engineers which produced a flawed government report into fracking earlier this year (their report omitted to consider the effect of earthquakes on wellbores).
Browne also works in the Cabinet Office, promoting his associates to positions on government boards. So far Browne has nearly sixty in position, including Baroness Hogg (see above). As the owner of the lead company exploiting UK shale gas, Browne’s already swollen bank balance will expand further as the dash for gas continues.
A Minister at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, Lord Green works with Lord Howell to support new gas. That’s primarily because Green is a non-executive director at BASF, which produces chemicals required for fracking.
Handy, then, that Green also heads UK Trade & Investment (UKTI), which has been promoting hydraulic fracturing worldwide. When Green attends BASF’s next board meeting his co-directors are bound to be supportive of the ministers efforts in promoting new gas.
Robinson brings another department – DEFRA – under the sway of the gas mafia. As SPAD to environment Secretary Owen Paterson, through Robinson the dons have gained influence over the Environment Agency, which DEFRA partly oversee.
Robinson previously worked as a lobbyist for the Australian Petroleum Production and Exploration Association. This charming clique is pleased to count Dart Energy within its membership. Robinson’s efforts within DEFRA are surely to be appreciated by the Australian driller as it attempts to bore the largest onshore gas development over the next few years.