Blog: Grudgingly, UKIP has a point on saving our shale gas wealth

It’s probably the only UKIP policy I can ever agree with. And it was presented in an otherwise mud-slinging speech by MEP Roger Helmer – the party’s energy lead who […]

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By Vicky Ellis

It’s probably the only UKIP policy I can ever agree with.

And it was presented in an otherwise mud-slinging speech by MEP Roger Helmer – the party’s energy lead who re-elected in last week’s EU elections – at UKIP’s annual conference last year.

It goes something like this: if Britain plunges on with a shale gas bonanza, why don’t we put the proceeds into a Norwegian-style savings pot for future generations?

Actually UKIP’s showstopper idea could have been borrowed from the Lib Dems – they put it forward a few weeks prior. (On the other hand, the Tories seem to have copied Farage on the “scrap wind” front.)

Why does this matter now? Because it seems like the shale gas gravy train envisioned by the Chancellor really will leave the station. Though not for a few years.

As one experienced energy analyst recently told me, we won’t get shale gas in our homes in the next two years, more likely by the end of the decade.

On Friday ministers opened an investigation into “simplifying” the “time-consuming” rules so firms can apply to frack under whole villages and towns, rather than ask each individual household.

At the same time, the Government wants shale developers to open their wallets a little wider for locals, suggesting a voluntary community payment of £20,000 per lateral well.

What about the bigger benefits on offer? Companies wouldn’t be circling Britain’s Bowland shale if there wasn’t the chance to make a healthy profit.

But when I put the question of a Norwegian-style pension pot to Lord MacGregor a few weeks back – chair of a Lords committee which ran a report on the economic benefits of shale gas – he told me they hadn’t considered this in their research.

Which suggests to me it’s none too high on the political agenda.

Maggie Thatcher’s government frittered away the North Sea’s wealth in tax breaks.

Casting an eye at Norway’s oil stash, it would be fracking foolish to make the same mistake twice.