Ben Webster

openDemocracy Ltd

Ben Webster exposed how the gas industry paid a lobbying firm more than £200,000 to set up and run a parliamentary group urging ministers to back new fossil-fuel projects. The All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Hydrogen, comprising 17 MPs and Lords – including some who previously worked for companies that could benefit from the lobbying – promoted technologies such as ‘hydrogen-ready boilers’ and ‘blue hydrogen’, which perpetuate the use of gas, and were criticised by scientists as a distraction from proven low-carbon alternatives based on renewable energy.

The APPG published reports that promoted the work of its sponsors – including Shell and Bosch – “in case studies that appear to be little more than adverts,” noted Webster. He also found numerous examples of gas-boiler manufacturers and installers making misleading claims online, and he turned the issue into a compelling consumer story by posing as a customer to catch British Gas advisers misleading others with false claims about new gas boilers – including that hydrogen would cut energy bills. 

Webster’s stories helped trigger a Competition and Markets Authority investigation into greenwashing by the gas industry, and prompted companies to remove misleading information from their websites and advertising. The judges called Webster’s work “diligent, impactful and critical.”