Tag Archives: Britain

#MH17: Stronger western sanctions on Russia likely within 48 hours


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Memorial outside Schiphol airport to the 289 dead of flight MH17, apparently shot down by fighters endorsed by Vladimir Putin's regime. Photograph: Sipa USA/REXMemorial outside Schiphol airport to the 289 dead of flight MH17, apparently shot down by fighters endorsed by Vladimir Putin’s regime. Photograph: Sipa USA/REX

Russia is expected to be hit with further sanctions on Tuesday after the US, Britain, France, Germany and Italy called for tougher action against the regime they believe is still shipping weapons into Ukraine despite the MH17 airliner disaster.

The western nations called on the European Union to impose new restrictions on trade with Russia’s defence, banking and hi-tech energy sectors, adding to existing asset freezes and travel bans on a list of people linked to the Kremlin.

New penalties are likely to be agreed at a meeting of ambassadors from all the EU’s 28 member states and could come into force within 24 to 48 hours. The US has already imposed similar trade sanctions and will now strengthen them, amid concerns among western nations that Moscow could still launch a full-scale cross-border intervention in Ukraine.

The joint call for Brussels to stand up to Vladimir Putin was agreed during a video conference between Barack Obama, David Cameron, President François Hollande of France, Italy’s prime minster, Matteo Renzi, and Germany’s chancellor, Angela Merkel.

In a further warning to Russia, some Nato countries are sending troops to Poland in October to take part in a military display called Exercise Black Eagle. Britain is contributing more than 1,300 soldiers to the exercise, which Michael Fallon, the new defence secretary, said was a sign of support for the country’s allies in eastern Europe.

On Tuesday, Cameron will also meet families of some of the British victims of the disaster to express his condolences at a time when rebels are still blocking international experts from reaching the crash site.

There has been a significant toughening in the rhetoric against Russia in recent days over its suspected role in arming pro-Putin separatists in eastern Ukraine. Putin’s government denies any responsibility for the shooting down of Malaysian airliner MH17, killing 295 people. However, the UK, US and Ukraine have all said they suspect it was downed accidentally by rebels using a Soviet-era Buk missile.

Following the leaders’ video call, No 10 said the discussion had focused on “Russia’s ongoing efforts to destabilise Ukraine” and agreed that the immediate priority must be to secure unrestricted access to the MH17 crash site.

Downing Street said it agreed that Russia had “failed to take the steps necessary to de-escalate the crisis, such as ceasing support for the separatists; stopping the flow of weapons across the border; and using its influence to ensure the release of hostages.

“Indeed the latest information from the region suggests that even since MH17 was shot down, Russia continues to transfer weapons across the border and to provide practical support to the separatists.”

Tony Blinken, a national security adviser to Obama, also said European leaders had made clear their determination to act. He added: “We expect the European Union to take significant additional steps this week, including in key sectors of the Russian economy. In turn, and in full coordination with Europe, the United States will implement additional measures itself.”

The US indicated that the EU was also looking at broadening its criteria for sanctioning individuals in order, Blinken said, to “bring in some of the cronies of President Putin”. Blinken argued that the existing sanctions regime had already produced major strategic gains in Ukraine, leading to a new government and the signing of the EU association agreement.

However, he said US intelligence assessments indicated that Moscow continued to transfer heavy weaponry and fighters across the border and to aid pro-Russian separatists, and had stationed Russian troops near the border. He described Putin’s strategy as one of “doubling down” on support for separatist fighters.

Before the meeting, Russia said it would not retaliate with sanctions of its own or “fall into hysterics”. Sergei Lavrov, the foreign minister, said the penalties could even make the country “more independent and more confident in our own strength”.

“I assure you, we will overcome any difficulties that may arise in certain areas of the economy,” he said. “We can’t ignore it. But to fall into hysterics and respond to a blow with a blow is not worthy of a major country.”

He also denied Russian involvement in the Ukraine conflict and called for “honest, open participation of all those who have access to information about the crash”.

“Anything else we will consider as deceitful attempts to influence the investigation, putting presumption of innocence in doubt,” he said.

“I don’t want to throw accusations in advance, but I expect that no one will try to cover up evidence.”

The Guardian.

#UK’s new #energy and #environment #ministers opposed #green energy


Matthew Hancock called for cuts to wind power subsidies while Liz Truss claimed renewable power was damaging the economy.

Britain's new minister for energy, business and enterprise, Matthew Hancock, at 10 Downing Street.Britain’s new minister for energy, business and enterprise, Matthew Hancock, at 10 Downing Street. Photograph: Suzanne Plunkett/Reuters

The new set of Conservative environment and energy ministers announced on Tuesday bring a track record of opposing renewable energy, having fought against wind and solar farms, enthusiastically backed fracking and argued that green subsidies damage the economy.

New energy minister, Matthew Hancock, signed a letter to David Cameron in 2012 demanding that subsidies for onshore windfarms were slashed. “I support renewable energy but we need to do it in a way that gives the most value for money and that does not destroy our natural environment,” he said at the time.

Hancock, who takes over from Michael Fallon, also opposed new turbines in his Suffolk constituency, arguing: “The visual and other impact of the proposed turbines is completely unacceptable in this attractive rural corner of Suffolk.”

New environment secretary and former Shell employee, Liz Truss, dismissed clean renewable energy as “extremely expensive” and said it was damaging the economy during an appearance on BBC Question Time last October.

“We do need to look at the green taxes because at the moment they are incentivising particular forms of energy that are extremely expensive,” she said. “I would like to see the rolling back of green taxes because it is wrong that we are implementing green taxes faster than other countries. We may be potentially exporting jobs out of the country as our energy is so expensive.”

In 2009, as deputy director of the free-market thinktank Reform, Truss said energy infrastructure in Britain was being damaged by politicians’ obsession with green technology: “Vast amounts of taxpayers’ money are being spent subsidising uneconomic activity,” she said. Research from the London School of Economics recently concluded that green policies were not harming economic growth. Continue reading

The #Telegraph: #Shell sails ahead without UK #shale


Oil and gas giant Shell is not tempted by fracking in Britain.

Shell’s Prelude floating liquefied natural gas vessel destined for Australia. Shell sees really strong LNG growth in the longer terms but little gain from fracking in BritainShell’s Prelude floating liquefied natural gas vessel destined for Australia. Shell sees really strong LNG growth in the longer terms but little gain from fracking in Britain. Photo: SEOKYONG LEE

Shale gas is likely to play an increasingly important role in powering Britain’s growth but don’t expect the country’s largest oil and gas company, Royal Dutch Shell, to help create a fracking-led energy revolution.

Andrew Brown, director of upstream international business and the man responsible for the main revenue-generating side of Britain’s most valuable company, is sceptical about the potential for shale oil and gas development in Britain.

“At the moment the UK position, you know, is not ranking for us,” Brown tells The Sunday Telegraph in an interview in his office overlooking the Thames. “This is a matter of just being disciplined about where we expect to get returns if our exploration is successful.

“It’s a matter of geology, costs, access, you know, it’s a combination of factors that would mean it’s not yet somewhere we would focus on.

“Capital is tight and we need to be very clear about where we want to spend that discretional dollar.”

Read the full story here.

Fracking is not a threat to water supplies in the South Downs


South Downs, Telscombe

A GLOBAL survey states deep fracking is ‘not’ a threat to water supplies in the South Downs.

The British Geological Survey states the risk of water supplies being contaminated in Britain is much lower than in the United States because almost all shale oil and gas is at least 650m below groundwater layers.

Many US homeowners have claimed that their water supply has been contaminated by methane leaks from fracked wells.

But companies in the US targeted shale less than 100m from chalk aquifers, which store water.

The distance to chalk water supply aquifers at the Weald basin in the South Downs is at least 650m.

The survey states that water supplies under the Downs should not be at risk from deep fracking, as long as vertical wells were drilled and ‘sealed safely’.

Dr Alwyn Hart, head of the air, land, and water research team at the Environment Agency, said: “We have strong regulatory controls in place to protect groundwater, and will not permit activity that threatens water and drinking supplies.”

Groundwater from the aquifers in the South Downs provide up to 70 per cent of the drinking water in the South East, making it one of the most important natural resources in the region.

Brighton Pavilion MP Caroline Lucas was among 25 people arrested at Balcombe in August 2013 during anti-fracking protests.

At court she was found not guilty of obstructing a public highway and a public order offence.

Brenda Pollack, south east campaigner for Friends of the Earth, said: “The survey is very interesting but we don’t think that it will eliminate the risk to the contamination of water.

“We believe the regulatory system is not strong enough.

“We don’t need to be trying to extract increasingly difficult fossil fuels when we need to be reducing our carbon emissions.”  Continue reading

Wind and other renewables generated a fifth of Britain’s electricity in early 2014


New windfarms, strong winds and a good winter for hydropower plants sent renewable energy generation surging to 19.4% of all electricity from January to March.

Wind and other renewables generated a fifth of Britain's electricity in early 2014A ship passes the windfarm just off the beach at Crosby, Merseyside. Photograph: Peter Byrne/PA

One fifth of all electricity was generated in Britain by windfarms or other green technologies in the first three months of the year, according to new statistics released by the Department of Energy and Climate change (DECC).

New windfarms coming online, strong winds and a good winter for hydropower plants sent renewable energy generation surging to 19.4% of all electricity from January to March 2014, up from about 12% for the same period last year. The power produced was enough for about 15m homes during the quarter. It was hailed as a breakthrough by the wind industry, which alone provided 12% of the overall power produced, and a rebuff to critics who have said that renewables would never account for such a large proportion of the energy mix.

However, the DECC data could stoke a new price row with energy suppliers because it shows gas prices to domestic customers rising in the first quarter with prices to businesses in decline at the same time.

The cost of gas to householders, including VAT, rose by 4.8% in real terms between the first quarter of 2013 and the same period of this year, while average gas prices to business customers, including the climate change levy, were 5.2% lower.  Continue reading