The House of Lords is emerging as a powerful pro-fracking advocate inside government.
Three Lords – Lord Green, Lord Howell and Lord Browne – and one Baroness – Baroness Hogg – each have financial interests in the fracking industry. And each holds either ministerial or executive rank at some of Whitehall’s most powerful departments: the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO), the Treasury and the Cabinet Office.
Below we take a look at these peers and their activities:
Foreign Office Minister promotes shale gas worldwide
While Energy Minister Ed Davey is reticent about fracking at home, FCO Minister Lord Green is shouting it from international rooftops. Green’s department has been promoting shale gas in Poland, Lithuania, China, Bulgaria, Mexico & the Ukraine – including through British embassies – whilst blithely ignoring findings from government-commissioned reports in the UK.
Green is a non-executive director at BASF, a German chemicals conglomerate that produces chemicals used in fracking (Google translate this page) and services to the fracking industry. These interests in BASF do not appear on his interests on the parliament.uk website.
As part of the FCO, Green heads UK Trade & Investment (UKTI). In Lithuania UKTI recently invited people to register on their website in order to receive more details about forthcoming license tenders. It also offered advice and translation services for potential frackers.
For enthusiastic frackers in Bulgaria, UKTI invited interested parties to a networking event, offering international speakers as well as representatives from the European Commission. Here UKTI in Mexico City reports on a Prime Minsterial business trip to discuss on shale in Mexico.
In China the British Embassy in Beijing issued a briefing paper “Can Shale Gas do for China What It Has Done for the US?” Ukraine and Poland also have the FCO’s attention, while Twitter followers are also subjected UKTI tweeting their shale gas exploits worldwide.
Treasury director’s fracking company earns $283 million this year
Baroness Hogg, a non-executive director at the Treasury, is also a non-executive at BG Group, who own substantial fracking interests in the US. BG’s expected revenues from US fracking is expected to top $283 million this year alone.
Hogg also works at Treasury, an an enthusiastic backer of new UK gas. Her influence on her boss, Chancellor George Osborne, is clear. He recently wrote to energy secretary Ed Davey, demanding “a statement which gives a clear, strong signal that we regard unabated gas as able to play a core part of our electricity generation”. No vested interests there, then.
Osborne relative joins the party
Working alongside Lord Green at the FCO (see above) is Lord Howell. Howell is not simply a gas lobbyist – he is also Chancellor George Osborne’s father-in-law.
As a FCO Minister Howell has been enthusiastically promoting UK investment in Polish shale gas.
In early June, Howell met the Polish economy, treasury and foreign affairs ministers in Warsaw. He also talked with a the Chief National Geologist about “facilitating UK low carbon investment in Poland with particular emphasis on shale gas and nuclear”.
As well as being a minister Howell also works for the British Institute of Energy Economics, a oil and gas lobbying group. Sponsors include Baroness Hogg’s BG Group.
Lord Browne – the fracking Czar
The ex-head of BP is a predictable supporter of unconventional gas. As director of Cuadrilla, the UK’s biggest fracking company, Lord Browne has a direct financial incentive to push hydraulic fracturing. Handy, then that he also works in the Cabinet Office, the nerve centre of government decision making.
Browne has recently come to the aid of the UK fracker, probably investing a further $20m to add to his existing $40m holding.
One of Browne’s principal roles is to appoint executives to government boards. In this he has been remarkably successful. In a recent report, Browne reports he has created 59 such positions. See here for a list of these appointees.
Browne’s role is to mould departments to think the same way he does. In the above report he complains: “some Boards still face significant issues around prioritisation and agenda setting, quality of information, engagement by junior Ministers and calibre of secretariat support.” To remedy the malaise Browne trains minsters and civil servants at his Major Projects Leadership Academy.
To add to the financial conflicts of interest of executive members of the Whitehall establishment, the oil and gas industry’s support also includes secondments, whereby fifty people inside government are paid by the oil and gas industry.