The revelation that the father-in-law of UK Chancellor George Osborne is a gas lobbyist provoked little surprise in Poland.
As a Minister at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO), Osborne’s father-in-law, Lord 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 BG Group which has more than $200m of Shale gas assets in the US.
The FCO in Poland claims the UK has “developed a good process (on fracking)… which we are very happy to share“. This “good process” has been the subject of two UK govt-commissioned reports this year. The first report ignored the effect of earthquakes on wellbore integrity, the second recommended extensive additions to current regulation. That’s an interesting definition of “good process”.
Osborne, meanwhile, is a strong proponent of new gas. In a recent letter to energy secretary Ed Davey he demands “a statement which gives a clear, strong signal that we regard unabated gas as able to play a core part of our electricity generation.”
In order to develop gas in the UK the Chancellor has recently been pushing for cuts to UK wind subsidies.
Howell’s FCO colleagues have also been promoting fracking in Poland. Nick Baird sits alongside Howell on the FCO’s board. Baird is also Chief Executive of UK Trade and Investment (UKTI). In March his deputy visited Warsaw on 22-23 March had lunch with representatives of Poland’s key shale gas players.
On 22 May the British-Polish Chamber of Commerce also hosted a shale gas summit in Poland. The aim of the meeting was to discuss how UK investment might help the Polish shale gas industry develop.
As well linking the chancellor to fracking Howell joins two other government peers with direct links to the industry. Lord Browne, who works in the Cabinet Office, is also CEO of UK fracker Cuadrilla Resource Holdings Ltd. Baroness Hogg is a director of BG Group, which has extensive US shale gas interests as well as contracts to buy fracked gas in Scotland. Hogg works for Osbourne as a non-executive director at the Treasury, a position created by Lord Browne.