Barry Gardiner, the MP for Brent North has been speaking about renewables at the Energy Live News website. During his interview, he made this remarkable statement about government support for different energy types:
He claimed the third [lie behind government energy policy] is that Government is “neutral” and doesn’t pick favourites in energy: “Last year the OECD announced that in 2010 the UK subsidised fossil fuels by £3.6 billion. In last year’s budget, the Chancellor announced a further £65million to oil and gas in 2011… In contrast the total subsidy paid to onshore wind in 2010 was just £400million.”
This is not the first time he has said this. Back in August he made the same claim in an article for the New Statesman:
Last year, the OECD estimated that in 2010 the subsidies for coal, gas and petrol in the UK amounted to £3.6bn on top of which the Chancellor, in the 2012 budget, has announced further exploration and production subsidies of £65m to develop the West of Shetland fields.
As readers here know, neither of these statements are true. The OECD paper does not mention subsidies of £3.6bn. That figure refers to the value of the reduced rate of VAT on energy. This does not meet the definition of a subsidy, which involves a cash payment. And since it applies to all kinds of energy it cannot be a "fossil fuel" subsidy either, so Gardiner's claim about picking favourites is patently false.
His claim about the further £65m for oil and gas is not a subsidy either, being a reduction in a supertax (the Supplementary Charge) which is paid by oil companies but not by renewables firms. This therefore is not a subsidy and demonstrates that government policy favours renewables over fossil fuels - the opposite of what Gardiner has said.
Ben Pile was incensed with Gardiner:
@BarryGardiner is a liar about the OECD analysis, even if he is right about energy proces rising. [...] Shame on you, Barry.
A tweet that ended up with quite an interesting exchange of views:
GARDINER: Your tweet is actionable. Please withdraw it. I correctly state OECD figures for Fossil Fuel Subsidies were £3.6bn in 2010
PILE: you can't call people liars and complain about being called a liar. Oecd figures are for reduced rate of vat, not subsidies...and you know that oecd figures are reduced rate, not subsidies, hence you are dishonest.
GARDINER: Also I said gov policy was based on a lie. No named person = not actionable You named me = actionable Please retract
PILE: it's true. You knew that what you said wasn't true. So you lied. I said so. That ain't 'actionable'. If you think it is...i'll withdraw my tweet if you explain that you were wrong about subsidies to energy live news...When did it become 'actionable' to call an MP a liar, anyway?...
GARDINER: So reducing tax to favour the consumption of a particular product does not count as a subsidy in your book? Really?
PILE: no, reducing tax is taking less money, subsidy is giving money. I'm surprised an MP can't tell the difference. Hmm....and reduced rate doesn't favour any particular form of energy. Applies to renewables too. Surprised you don't know this.
Send me your email address, and i'll give you my postal address so you can get your lawyer to proceed...
PILE: let me up the stakes by adding 'coward' to liar.
PILE: thanks. I've got no money or property, I hope you realise. Could cost you.
Popcorn is definitely required.