The Tories' former environment secretary has compared a proposed ban on new oil boilers as the rural equivalent of London's controversial ULEZ expansion - and urged the Prime Minister to scrap it.
The Telegraph reports MP George Eustice said there were 1.7 million rural homes that will be affected by the new oil boiler ban, which would likely see off-the-grid country homes encouraged to switch to “air-source heat-pumps” from 2026.
Eustice said this would cost four times more than a new boiler, PA reports, and proposed his own solution - encouraging people to use environmentally-friendlier fuels.
“For just a couple of hundred pounds, an existing kerosene boiler can be converted to run on hydrotreated vegetable oil made from waste cooking oil or vegetable waste," he added. “Facilitating that switch would reduce carbon emissions by 88% far faster than the current approach could and at a fraction of the cost.”
He said the Prime Minister was "right to push back", as rural communities were "about to have their own version of London’s ultra-low emission zone dumped on them". PA also reported that more than a dozen Tory MPs supported Eustice’s amendment to the energy Bill, and more than 30 had written to Sunak to raise the issue.
This comes as the government has been accused of watering down its green and climate-focused policies, after Labour's narrow by-election loss in Uxbridge was attributed to the ULEZ expansion.
Other policies are now reportedly in the firing line too, with Rishi Sunak ordering a review of low-traffic neighbourhoods, and facing pressure over the 2030 petrol and diesel car ban, alongside the new oil and gas licences.
Greenpeace UK’s climate campaigner, Georgia Whitaker, is one of several voices speaking out against backing down on the boiler ban. “This government is in danger of shedding its green credentials faster than a tree in Autumn. You have to wonder what MPs are going to try and resurrect next - the coal powered steam engine?"
“By simply swapping oil boilers for heat pumps, the UK could reduce its carbon emissions by 2% a year," she added. "That’s a massive prize, and the price of heating oil means this should be a win-win for rural communities. But by faffing around and leaving both rural communities and the heating industry hanging, there is now a challenge to grasp this opportunity ."
She urged the government to "stop hunting for the next culture war issue", and stick with its plans - while ramping up funding to support people with the switch "to alleviate the cost of living and climate crises".