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Budget dashes hope of a green recovery

With £3bn for oil exploration, the promise of new gas-power stations and a u-turn on airport expansion, any hopes for a green government were dashed by yesterday's Budget announcement. Announcing the 2012 Budget, George Osborne said “Gas is cheap, has much less carbon than coal and will be the largest single source of our electricity in the coming years. And so the energy  secretary will set out our new gas generation strategy in the autumn to secure investment. I also want to that ensure we extract the greatest possible amount of oil and gas from our reserves in the North Sea."

Despite the wealth of evidence pointing towards the need for investment in low-carbon industries to secure the economic recovery and future competitiveness, Tory chancellor George Osborne failed to offer a green light to renewables.  His promise of more gas was also accompanied by a £3bn allowance for new oil and gas fields in the North Sea and the suggestion of a U-turn on airport expansion.  “We must confront the lack of airport capacity in south-east England – the transport secretary will set out government thinking later this summer,” the Chancellor said.

Even new support for combined heat and power generation was disappointing as the charges the chancellor removed to help these plants only partially restore the tax break he took away last year, leaving little incentive to opt for this more efficient form of generation.

“As well as failing to look after the environment, by supporting oil intensive industries rather than investing in our low-carbon future, George Osborne’s budget has failed to look after our economy too,” said SERA’s Co-Chair Martin Tiedemann.

Other green groups were similiarly disappointed with the budget:

John Sauven, executive director of Greenpeace said, “This was a bad day for the environment. Support for British manufacturing, green jobs and greening the economy should have been the cornerstone of Osborne’s budget. Instead we got a polluters’ charter. The chancellor performed a carbon-belching U-turn by supporting airport expansion in the south-east, before handing tax breaks to an oil industry that’s already making billions in profits and a cash bung to the very same oil industry to drill in our fragile seas.”

Friends of the Earth’s executive director, Andy Atkins: “This budget sticks two fingers up at David Cameron’s promise to build a clean future – and gives a massive thumbs down to new jobs and cutting our reliance on expensive gas and oil. Safeguarding our environment and growing a strong economy go hand-in-hand – but the chancellor has fired the starting pistol for more roads, airports and gas power that will keep the UK hooked on costly fossil fuels for decades to come.”

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