Boris Johnson warns consumers as he says reducing reliance on Russian energy ‘will be painful’ – UK Politics Live | Politics
Hello. One of the key skills of political leadership is the ability to react and adapt to changing circumstances; recognize that as events change (even for the worse), opportunities can open up. Since Russia invaded Ukraine, Boris Johnson and his government focused on supporting President Zelenskiy (which they did well, according to consensus opinion) and responding to the refugee crisis (which they did very badly, judging by the same reference). But Johnson also identified the crisis as an opportunity to overhaul energy policy, and today he set out, in the clearest terms yet, his thinking.
Johnson said the government will soon release a new document outlining its revised energy security policy. But in a lengthy article in the Daily Telegraph (paywall) he today set out what will likely turn out to be the key pillars of the strategy. Here they are.
- Johnson says the West made a “terrible mistake” when it failed to respond vigorously to President Putin’s 2014 annexation of Crimea and invasion of eastern Ukraine. He says:
When Vladimir Putin first invaded Ukraine in 2014, the West made a terrible mistake. The Russian leader had committed an act of violent aggression and taken a huge chunk of a sovereign country – and we let him off the hook.
He says the West has an “addiction” to Russian oil and gas, and that has allowed Putin to “blackmail” it.
- But, Johnson argues, Russia’s strength, its energy supplies, also makes it vulnerable. He explains:
Putin’s strength – his vast hydrocarbon resource – is also his weakness. He has practically nothing else. Putin’s Russia earns little that the rest of the world wants to buy. If the world can end its dependence on Russian oil and gas, we can starve it of money, destroy its strategy and shrink it down to size.
- Johnson says it will be “painful” for the West to reduce its dependence on Russian energy. He says:
Because this strategy will only really work if everyone does it. The only way to force Putin to cease his aggression, and to respect international law, is for the world to stop exploiting Russian hydrocarbons – and we must accept that such a decision will be painful.
And later in the article he says:
I have no doubt that there will be tough times ahead. The process of weaning the world off Russian oil and gas, and hydrocarbons in general, will be difficult.
This is important because Johnson has so far been very reluctant to admit that the search for alternative energy sources will impact consumers. Just last week, when the government announced it would stop imports of Russian oil by the end of the year, Johnson said consumers would be “protected”, implying that it would not be not hard.
- He says the UK must become less dependent on other countries for energy. He says:
We must continuously reduce the cost of energy at source – and that will only happen if our supply is more secure, more sustainable and less vulnerable to manipulation by others.
We have to take back control. Later this month I will present a UK energy security strategy – how the UK will become more self-sufficient and no longer at the mercy of bullies like Putin.
Interestingly, Johnson links this to Brexit (“take back control”), in keeping with the adage that old slogans are often the best.
- He says going green will be key to increasing the UK’s energy security. He says:
At the heart of the strategy are green energies of all kinds.
Green electricity is not only better for the environment, it is also better for your bank balance. A kilowatt from a North Sea wind turbine costs less than that produced by a power plant running on gas shipped to the UK from overseas. And if a quarter of our electricity didn’t already come from renewables, your bills today would be even higher than they already are.
Renewable energy is the fastest and cheapest route to greater energy independence. They are invulnerable to Putin’s manipulations. He can have his hand on the oil and gas taps. But he can do nothing to stop the North Sea wind.
That’s why our ambition to reach net zero is not the problem. Renewable energy – which is becoming increasingly efficient – is a crucial part of the solution.
This is a response to the Conservative Party faction urging the government to abandon its net zero commitments.
- He says it’s time to make “a series of new big bets” on nuclear. And he claims that Labor is responsible for the fact that nuclear energy is not currently more developed in the UK. He says:
So now is the time to make a series of new big bets on nuclear power. The 1997 Labor manifesto claimed there was “no economic justification” for more nuclear – even though nuclear is in fact safe, clean and reliable.
It is time to reverse this historic mistake, with a strategy that includes small modular reactors as well as larger power plants. It was the United Kingdom that first split the atom. The United Kingdom had the world’s first civilian nuclear power station. It is time to regain our lead.
Johnson made a similar point in the Commons last week. In response, Keir Starmer pointed out that progress in building new nuclear power stations had been very slow since 2010 when the Tories also came to power.
- And Johnson is hinting that he wants to increase gas production from the North Sea. He says:
It’s crazy that we import oil and gas from Putin’s Russia when we have our own resources in the North Sea. It is time to restore investor confidence in British hydrocarbons. This way, we will have greater national energy resilience as we transition to a zero-carbon future.
In a meeting with energy company executives in Downing Street yesterday, Johnson was more explicit. They agreed on the need to increase supplies.
Here is the program for the day.
9:30 a.m.: Boris Johnson chairs the cabinet.
10 a.m.: Ofcom and BBC World Service testify before Commons Culture Committee on Russian disinformation; at 11 a.m. Nigel Huddleston, Minister for Sports, testifies; 12:00 Mark Bullingham, Chief Executive of the Football Association, and Helen MacNamara, Director of Premier League Policy, testify about Russia’s involvement in football.
10 a.m.: Sir Alex Allan, the former Independent Advisor on Ministerial Standards, and Sir Philip Mawer, the former Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards, testify before the House of Commons Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee.
10:30 a.m.: Lord Agnew, who resigned as Treasury minister because he believed the government was not taking fraud seriously enough, testifies before the House of Commons Affairs Committee.
11:30 a.m.: Rishi Sunak, the Chancellor, answers questions in the Commons.
11:30 a.m.: Downing Street holds a lobby briefing.
Late in the morning: Boris Johnson meets other leaders from countries contributing to the Joint Expeditionary Force, the Northern European Security Coalition (Denmark, Finland, Estonia, Iceland, Latvia, Lithuania, Netherlands, Sweden, Norway and UK) in Lancaster House.
After 12:30 p.m.: MEPs begin a general debate on Ukraine.
2 p.m.: Nicola Sturgeon, Scottish First Minister, gives a statement to MSPs about Covid.
2:30 p.m.: Lord Robertson, the former Secretary General of NATO, testifies before the Defense Committee of the House of Commons.
Also today, Liz Truss, the Foreign Secretary, is set to add hundreds of oligarchs, individuals and organizations to the UK’s sanctions list, using the powers of the Economic Crimes Act which has just become law.
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