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« The CCC abandons science | Main | Making science public »

DECC's agenda

The FT's energy blogger, Nick Butler, notes some worrying behaviour.

The UK’s Department of Energy and Climate Change is about to publish forecasts suggesting that gas prices could rise by up to 70 per cent over the next five years. This is scaremongering nonsense, and shows just how out of touch the Department is with the realities of the international energy market. Officials appear not to have consulted the industry or the traders. In reality the odds are that prices are just as likely to fall as to rise...

When civil servants are spreading misleading information to benefit a political agenda you know that there's a problem.

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Reader Comments (31)

Do they use the same forecasting model as the Met Office?

Mar 26, 2013 at 5:21 PM | Registered CommenterPhillip Bratby

So even greater tranches of Shale Gas will be profitable.

Mar 26, 2013 at 5:25 PM | Unregistered CommenterJoe Public

"how out of touch the Department is with the realities of the international energy market."

Surely should read

"how out of touch the Department is with reality"

And actually, these guys n gals are *not* permitted to fantasize like this by their professional codes of conduct - it's high time these activist twerps were reined in and put in charge of delivering internal mail, tea and ginger nuts (or P45'd) rather than pantomiming an impersonation of competent and honest public servants.

DECC are a disgrace and and render satire redundant. splutter.... shameful...

Mar 26, 2013 at 5:30 PM | Registered Commentertomo

Memo to George Osborne:

Abolish the DECC. Now. All of it. Whatever it costs in redundancies will be nothing to the gain in sanity for all the rest of us. To say nothing of the actual economic gains of escaping from a series of energy 'plans' drawn up by the third-rate careerists staffing this pitiful organisation.

Mar 26, 2013 at 5:49 PM | Unregistered CommenterAgouts

Are there any government departments that are in touch with reality? They probably actually want energy prices to soar. It is the UK government's equivalent of the EU enforced Cypriot bank robbery. The swivel-eyed fanatics that wanted us to switch to the euro currency and, with a lot more success, through open our borders and embrace the "human rights" racket tend to be the same people that are enthusiastic about "green" energy, partly because our CO2 targets are set in Brussels.

Of course our MPs are still happily drawing their salaries even though they have surrounded control of our own affairs to the EU.

Mar 26, 2013 at 5:54 PM | Unregistered CommenterRoy

"gas prices could rise by up to 70 per cent over the next five years."

Looks like a made to order quote, be interesting to see what it is used to back up in the near future. Could it be fractastic shale, or the gov new long term nuke strategy doc released today?

Mar 26, 2013 at 5:55 PM | Unregistered CommenterFrosty

A predicted price rise of 70% (if not more) is entirely reasonable.

By the time the potential shale gas business has been regulated into oblivion and the carbon floor tax has been steadily raised a substantial rise in the price of gas is only to be expected.

Whether it's necessary or not is another question entirely...

Mar 26, 2013 at 6:05 PM | Unregistered Commenterflintwingel

My guess would be that a 70% rise in gas prices is the figure that's necessary in order to continue to argue that green subsidies are "value for money"

In other words, policy based evidence making.

Mar 26, 2013 at 6:19 PM | Unregistered CommenterAngusPangus

Do the DECC guys present any reasoning for their forecasts?

Or are we just supposed to accept their word as law?

Mar 26, 2013 at 6:25 PM | Unregistered CommenterLatimer Alder

Meanwhile, in the real world:

Centrica plc's (LON:CNE) deal to buy liquified natural gas (LNG) export capacity from Cheniere Energy’s (NYSEAMEX:CQP) facility in Louisiana shows how much the global energy industry has changed, the Telegraph's Questor says. The US is moving from an energy importer to an energy exporter and it’s all down to the ingenious exploitation of shale gas.

Mar 26, 2013 at 6:35 PM | Unregistered CommenterTerryS

@Latimer Adler

There is no supposed about it. DECC officials are legally obliged under pain of criminal sanction to obey the Civil Servant's Code of Conduct which is well worth a read - your irony detector should be turned off though to avoid distraction and expensive replacement :-).

Just don't ask me about enforcing it ... I'm presently wrestling with that one and applying it to DECC's ugly sister The Environment Agency - some headway with The Parliamentary Ombudsman's Office who seem "refreshingly direct" about lies, fantasy and the EA's derogating the Civil Servant's clear duty to transparency, objectivity and honesty.

Mar 26, 2013 at 6:44 PM | Registered Commentertomo

I suspect the civil servants involved are of the kind that would be horrified to be called servants, and reluctant to be called civil. They are part of the vanguard, clearing the way to sunlit uplands etc etc. They do not serve, they lead. And being civil is for wimps.

Mar 26, 2013 at 6:44 PM | Unregistered CommenterJohn Shade

@John Shade
like our old pal Bryony "baroness" Worthington eh?

Mar 26, 2013 at 6:50 PM | Registered Commentertomo

In "The Times" today, Centrica have agreed a 20 year, £10 billion deal with the US to send LNG to the UK.

Made possible by the US Shalegas revolution.

I wonder how much Centrica will pay?

by the way, don't we have our own Shalegas?

I see more self-inflicted "problems" for UK shale gas extraction.

Mar 26, 2013 at 6:51 PM | Unregistered CommenterDon Keiller

Big Green proclaiming the end of cheap energy with no data to back it up. No surprise there.

Speculation to frighten people appears to be a new and effective propaganda tool. And why not? Climate Science&#8482 has been doing it successfully for decades.

Mar 26, 2013 at 6:54 PM | Unregistered Commentertheduke

What we are seeing here is, of course, "post-normal politics".
We have already seen the most expensive piece of legislation in the history (probably) of the world drafted by a 24-year-old activist with no right to have her fingers anywhere near the levers of power and only in the last week we have seen another lobby group composed of low-level celebs led by a second-rate actor* consulted on the future of the British press leaving us reliant on the good offices of a member of the House of Lords — which appears to be the only part of the present government which actually works, which probably explains why all parties are desperate to neuter it — to put forward amendments to save bloggers from the draconian penalties being prescribed.

* I exclude the Dowler family from that criticism, incidentally, though I still fail to understand by what right they, or any other member of the general public, should dictate to the other 60,000,000 people in the country how the newspapers they read should be run.

Don Keiller
There is a figure for the gas deal somewhere. I will almost certainly have read it on the DT website but I can't remember when. When was the original deal struck? Last year, I think, though it may have been 2011. If I can find it I'll post the figure.

Mar 26, 2013 at 7:15 PM | Registered CommenterMike Jackson

"When civil servants are spreading misleading information to benefit a political agenda you know that there's a problem."

Hate to disillusion you, Bishop, but this has been going on at least for decades. It was on the advice of civil servants (the FCO ie Foreign & Commonwealth Office in this case) that successive govts. have kept very quiet about the gradual encroachment of the EU.

This was a briefing document from the FCO to Heath in 1971 (released after being kept under wraps under 30 Years secrecy)

"After entry [to the EEC] there would be a major responsibility on HMG and on all political parties not to exacerbate public concern by attributing unpopular measures or unfavourable economic developments to the remote and unmanageable workings of the Community". Section 24(1)

“the transfer of major executive responsibilities to the bureaucratic Commission in Brussels will exacerbate popular feeling of alienation from government. To counter this feeling, strengthened local and regional democratic processes within the member states and effective Community regional economic and social policies will be essential.” Section 24 (2) and doesn't that rather sound like Cameron's 'Big Society' idea!!

EU FCO 30/1048 DOCUMENT 1971

Parliament is little more than a pantomime here with many MPs main efforts appearing to be directed at pilfering from the public purse as the expenses scandal illustrated. Many of our laws originate from Brussels and are simply rubber stamped in parliament. When it was put forward that the EU origin should be identified on such laws a three-line party whip was drawn up to prevent this from happening.

It's our bureaucrats dream of global governance than has given rise to the CAGW nonsense. They had the solution just needed a problem to pin it on!! In his 1977 book "Climatic Change and World Affairs" Crispin Tickell (another FCO bureaucrat) identified Climate Change as just such a problem. (although he did also say that "The biggest threat we face is our own success as a species... we have learned how to live in virtually every climate... No one knows how long the present dizzy expansion of human numbers can continue before stability is reached or catastrophe take place"!!! (P.36)

Bureaucrats in the EU have made sure that CAGW 'science' is well-funded.

as they say FOLLOW THE MONEY

so that no matter how many 'scientific' papers are shot down in flames by the likes of McIntyre another is sure to take its place. Sickening that public funds are being misappropriated in this way to follow a political agenda.

Mar 26, 2013 at 7:41 PM | Unregistered CommenterMarion

John Redwood continues to demonstrate his brain still works. Why is he not in charge of DECC?

Mar 26, 2013 at 7:57 PM | Unregistered CommenternTropywins


There are laws against some of that.... :-)

Given the propensity of this sort of thing to lead to a very non-virtuous circle when the bureaucrats are so emboldened by the lack of any substantive challenge to their whimsical embroidering of the "colleagues from Brussels directives" and stuff like Tickell's grotesque and poisonous flights of fantasy that they wander off into simply making sh*t up.

I think it's past time we let them get away with it. There are some tools in place to deal with these deviant, damaging and deluded gits - it needs to be discovered if said tools can be made to work.....

Mar 26, 2013 at 8:33 PM | Unregistered CommenterTomO


You missed the best bit out (last two sentences)!

'One might even suspect that DECC is still projecting higher prices because such prices help to justify the subsidies it wants to give to high-cost nuclear and renewables. They certainly further undermine the already fragile level of confidence in the quality of the department’s work.'

Mar 26, 2013 at 8:39 PM | Registered CommenterPharos

It will be a damn sight more than 70% when our reserves run out. April 8th is the current estimate...


Mar 26, 2013 at 8:55 PM | Unregistered CommenterJames P

nTropywins: "John Redwood continues to demonstrate his brain still works. Why is he not in charge of DECC?"

I think you have answered your own question.

Mar 26, 2013 at 9:13 PM | Unregistered CommenterMike Fowle

Interesting 'About Nick' on the article sidebar-

' Nick Butler is Visiting Professor and Chair of the Kings Policy Institute at Kings College London.

He spent 29 years with BP, including five years as Group Vice President for Policy and Strategy Development at BP from 2002 to 2006. He has also served as Senior Policy Adviser at No 10, Chairman of the Centre for European Reform and Treasurer of the Fabian Society.

Nick Butler is an investor in, and an adviser to a number of companies and institutions in the energy business. The views expressed are solely those of Mr Butler. This material is not intended to provide and should not be relied upon for investment advice or recommendations. Readers are urged to seek professional advice before making any investment'.

Is it 'de rigeur' for a Prof these days to be a Fabian? But at least he's got DECC's game weighed up.

Mar 26, 2013 at 9:15 PM | Registered CommenterPharos

Re: Mar 26, 2013 at 8:33 PM | TomO

Unfortunately one of the 'said tools' appears to have been neutered by Tony Blair.... one of his first actions when he came to power was to abolish the death penalty for treason.

Mar 26, 2013 at 9:53 PM | Unregistered CommenterMarion

Here are the 3 month prices of natural gas in Ontario, Canada...

At an admitted high in 2005-2006 of 41cents/m3 to a current price of 10.7cents/m3 If you notice the gas cost adjustment column is almost always in the negative... what this represents is the adjustment in the price predicted for billing over a 12 month period and the actual cost of the natural gas. It's paid out quarterly so as to mitigate the risk of large, one-time payments or rebates.

Mind you, this, like the Little Ice Age, is historical fact. A fact which may have been missed by those much wiser than I.

Mar 26, 2013 at 10:40 PM | Unregistered CommenterRed Jeff

@ Marion
tut... you'll start all that death threat stuff off again.

What we're seeing in this DECC statement isn't the product of due diligence and sober analysis - it's a pack of lies, deliberate, calibrated, mendacious fibs squeezed out through PR professionals.

The folk at DECC are not simply misguided - they are ideological activists and are following their own contrived and irrational beliefs, attempting to jam said beliefs down our throats - using our money.

I would be satisfied simply to see the law enforced and have these people removed from the public payroll entirely including any supposedly accrued benefits - statutory minimum and nuke their pensions to boot or invest them exclusively in offshore wind energy - if they bleat / struggle about being sacked then perhaps DECC could be relocated to an off-grid collection of yurts in a squelchly, windswept marsh in mid Wales.

That they seek on the one hand to impose statute on us with the CCA and then refuse to enforce their own statutory code of conduct is farcical at best and damn close to civilization meltdown at worst

Mar 26, 2013 at 10:40 PM | Registered Commentertomo

Re: Mar 26, 2013 at 10:40 PM | tomo

"I would be satisfied simply to see the law enforced and have these people removed from the public payroll entirely including any supposedly accrued benefits..."

Instead of which we see the exact opposite - those that stick to the required political message are loaded with honours and ensured career advancement... the list appears to be endless - Sir Crispin Tickell, Sir John Beddington, Sir Paul Nurse, Baroness Worthington..... not to mention Mann, Gleick & co & their numerous public engagements all to further 'the cause'.

Mar 26, 2013 at 11:05 PM | Unregistered CommenterMarion

Is this related to Greg Barker's less than convincing performance on 5-live at about 8:40 this morning yet again telling us that we are all going to save money by using less energy and not because he has got off his arse and worked out how to make cheap energy...

Mar 27, 2013 at 8:18 AM | Unregistered CommenterMorph

Obvious innit? Scare us with a projected 70% rise now and then we will be really pleased when the rise is only 50 or 60%.
Pollies take the credit, civil servant gets a knighthood and all get work with pay and reasonable expenses advising on renewable energy and maybe a Commisionership in EU with tax-free booze.

Mar 27, 2013 at 9:25 AM | Unregistered CommenterBill Irvine

There seems to be a contradiction.

"The FT's energy blogger, Nick Butler,.... (predicts that) the UK’s Department of Energy and Climate Change is about to publish forecasts suggesting that gas prices could rise by up to 70 per cent over the next five years."

Yet today, we have the BBC proclaiming that:-

"Energy policies will cushion consumers from price rises, but only after contributing to a rise in average household bills, a report has said. By 2020, bills will be 11% - or £166 - lower than they would otherwise have been, according to the Department of Energy and Climate Change's report."

As gas comprises a very substantial proportion of the UK's primary energy, the two DECC positions appear to be in conflict.

Mar 27, 2013 at 10:39 AM | Unregistered CommenterJoe Public

Can Theresa May be prevailed upon to disband the DECC, perhaps..?
I know its not her department, but that doesn't usually stop her...
It will, after all, be 'in the national interest'...

Mar 27, 2013 at 1:45 PM | Unregistered CommenterDavid

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