Monthly Archives: December 2012

For some years I used to bet on the end year oil price with Ed Crooks. He usually won.

I thought for 2013 a wider challenge would be a better test for FT readers.

So here are six questions: 

What does 2013 hold for the UK’s Climate Change Committee? This worthy body was established in 2009 and is responsible for advising the government on emissions targets and reporting to parliament on the progress being made on reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

The remit sounds reasonable but the reality is that the committee has been written off in Whitehall. The committee’s advice is blatantly ignored and its chief executive, despite his obvious knowledge and capability, has been dismissed by no less than the prime minister as too inexperienced and unqualified to be appointed as permanent secretary of the energy department. For a serious public servant that is pretty damning. 

Francis Maude faces a re-assertion of civil service authority. Getty Images

By the end of the week the Department for Energy and Climate Change should have a new permanent secretary. The interviews are on Thursday and the panel, now shorn of inconvenient outsiders such as Lord Stern, will pick a civil servant who will be confirmed immediately.

That might sound bad, but the candidate most likely to be selected is surprisingly strong and a symbol of how seriously the senior civil service takes the department’s problems.

The appointment is a re-assertion of civil service authority and a slap in the face for Cabinet Office Minister Francis Maude who wanted to bring in a businessman. Mr Maude and Mr Cameron still owe an apology to David Kennedy, the head of the climate change committee who was selected and then summarily deselected, but the most he is likely to get is a consolatory MBE. (I will elaborate on the future of the committee next week.) 

Chatham House explores what's next for the oil and gas industry in its latest paper. Getty Images

Anyone wanting a little bracing reading material for the Christmas holidays should take a look at the excellent paper recently produced by the Energy and Environment Programme at the Royal Institute of International Affairs – Chatham House. The paper – What Next for the Oil and Gas Industry – provides an unusually wide ranging view of the energy scene and will be of interest to anyone involved in the industry – from investors to governments

Government plays at panto with energy policy. Getty Images

And so the UK energy policy saga continues. Recently it was all wind and decarbonisation. Now it is about gas and shale.

Each step is presented as the answer – definitive and final – but behind that rhetoric is the slippery suggestion of another review of the policy in 2016, which makes everything decidedly temporary.

In the Department of Energy and Climate Change itself, pantomime season has come early this year. Jack and the Wind Turbines will be performed by an all-star cast. Young Greg, played by Kenneth Williams, and followed everywhere by a small dog, goes around planting windmills – “look behind you, there’s another”. He is followed around by the Rev. John, played by Ronnie Barker, proclaiming wind to be wicked, contrary to the word of the Lord and trying to pull them down. Led, if that is the word, by Mr Davey, an eternally optimistic but increasingly emotional character, caught beautifully by Tony Hancock, our heroes wander around looking for an energy policy on which they can agree.