Wednesday, November 28, 2012

British MP On Climate Committee Advising On Coal Power For $300 An Hour

by Graham Readfearn, via DeSmogBlog

A British MP revealed to be holding $400,000 worth of share options in an oil firm while sitting on an influential parliamentary climate change committee is also being paid $300 an hour to advise an Indian company building a coal fired power station, DeSmogBlog has discovered.

Veteran Conservative MP Peter Lilley has billed the New Delhi-based Ferro Alloys Corporation Limited (FACOR) for at least 220 hours of consultancy advice and is still working for the group.

It emerged in The Guardian last week that self-described "global lukewarmist" Mr Lilley, a director with Tethys Petroleum, was also holding $400,000 worth of share options in the company which is drilling for oil and gas in Kazakhstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan.

As The Guardian reported, Mr Lilley is also paid by Tethys to attend meetings and provide advice and has received about £47,000 (US$75,000) in the past year.

The UK Parliament's register of members' financial interests shows that in the period from January to June this year, Mr Lilley racked up 228 hours of work for Tethys, FACOR and IDOX plc, a document management company where he is also a director.

The register shows how Mr Lilley was paid £37,696 (US$60,360) for 220 hours of "advice on the management and flotation of a power generating subsidiary" by Ferro Alloys Corporation Limited between July 2011 and June 2012.

FACOR is building a 100MW coal fired power station at Randia in the state of Orissa in eastern India to provide electricity to its ferro alloys plant, with excess power being sold to the grid.

Mr Lilley's latest payment from FACOR suggests an hourly rate of £187 (US$300). The payments from Tethys and FACOR come on top of Mr Lilley's annual MP's salary of £65,738 (US$105,000).

Mr Lilley has recently been appointed to the UK Parliament's Energy and Climate Change Committee, which examines the policies of the government's Department of Energy and Climate Change.

Environment groups criticised the appointment, which has been seen as a sign that "anti-green" forces were gaining hold on the UK's Conservative Party.

In a response to questions from me, Mr Lilley confirmed his work with FACOR was continuing. I asked if his work with the oil and coal sectors represented a conflict of interest, "given your position on the climate committee in a parliament as internationally influential as the UK." I also pointed out that the "peer reviewed literature would suggest that coal power is detrimental to the climate".

In a feisty and provocative response, Mr Lilley said:

Can you suggest any policies of the UK government which this Committee exists to scrutinise which have, will or conceivably might affect the profitability of an Indian power company or for that matter an oil company whose operations are entirely in Central Asia? Far from a conflict of interest, my knowledge of the Energy sector (I was a financial analyst specialising in the Energy sector before becoming a minister) is helpful - for example at today's hearings of the Committee I was able to point out that there is no obvious reason for the British government to give the oil industry special tax breaks to incentivise shale gas development, as others assumed. I imagine the only reason anyone should raise the absurd suggestion of a conflict of interest is because they are unable to refute the views I have expressed on the Economics of Climate Change and therefore have to resort to innuendo. I am sorry you have so little faith in your position that you need to resort to that.

Mr Lilley also attached a copy of a report he authored for the Global Warming Policy Foundation, a climate sceptic group founded by Lord Nigel Lawson, a former chancellor in the Margaret Thatcher government.

The report criticised the UK Government's perceived reliance on the Stern Review on the Economics of Climate Change. Mr Lilley's interests in Tethys and his lucrative consultancy work for FACOR are not disclosed in the report.

Bob Ward, policy and communications director at the Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment at London School of Economics and Political Science, has said Lilley's GWPF report was based on "misrepresentations and bad economics".

The GWPF, which claims to be non-political, has refused to disclose its funders but it was revealed earlier this year that one financier was major Conservative Party donor and billionaire Michael Hintze, an Australian-born UK-based hedge fund manager.

Several requests to FACOR for comment went unanswered.

Graham Readfearn is an independent journalist based in Queensland, Australia, with 15 years experience as a reporter and writer on newspapers, magazines, radio and online. This piece was originally published at DeSmogBlog and was reprinted with permission.

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