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We cannot afford to be perilously reliant on gas

The recent economic challenges faced by the UK have a significant underlying cause: gas dependency.

Despite minimal reliance on Russian imports prior to their invasion of Ukraine – and now importing nothing – gas prices in Britain surged thirteen-fold last summer as Europe scrambled for alternative fuel sources.

Given our status as one of one of Europe's most gas-dependent nations, we are exposed to colossal price spikes in international gas markets.

While government support successfully shielded families and businesses from the worst impacts of the crisis, it came at a staggering cost of nearly £80 billion to taxpayers. Although half of this amount will be recovered through windfall taxes imposed on big energy firms, the remaining portion had to be borrowed, equivalent to an additional 7p on the basic rate of income tax.

We cannot afford to be in this position again.

The recently published report by the Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR) emphasises the urgency of reducing our reliance on gas. If we don't, future energy crises could cost taxpayers dearly again.

We must streamline planning regulations and offering tax breaks for the development of renewable energy.

We are already world leaders in offshore wind, but we can do more. Lifting the ban on cheap, clean and popular onshore wind will help us reduce our reliance on gas further.

Using excess renewable electricity to make green hydrogen can also reduce the volume of gas used by heavy industry.

Rather than supporting its development through a levy on household bills, it should be charging large industrial polluters emitting the most significant emissions.

Insulating homes is vital to using less gas and lowering people's bills. Introducing stamp duty cuts for sellers and buyers could help fund improvements to draughty homes.

We must also back the heat pump industry with grants to scale up and cut costs, enabling people to replace gas boilers.

As the OBR warns, future energy crises could cost us far more than the public investment needed to reach net zero, which will create skilled jobs, capture new industries, and tackle climate change.

It’s time to double down on net zero to protect taxpayers and get our economy on track.

First published by Daily Express. Jo Gideon MP (Stoke-on-Trent Central) is a member of the Conservative Environment Network.

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