A blog by Luke Akehurst about politics, elections, and the Labour Party - With subtitles for the Hard of Left. Just for the record: all the views expressed here are entirely personal and do not necessarily represent the positions of any organisations I am a member of.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Energy Targets

I may be being ignorant, or naive, but I don't quite get this week's soft-pedaling on the renewable energy target.

Not only do we have what most thinking people believe is the huge problem of climate change to deal with, but we also have two inter-related problems that will be looming even if some miracle happens and it turns out the scientists are all wrong, George W Bush is right (which on the track record seems unlikely), and climate change isn't as serious as expected:

1) Peak oil. The stuff is going to run out. There is a finite supply of it. Possibly we are already past the high point of oil supply and it is running out. And there are a billion plus Chinese just starting to enjoy products made from and powered by it. It won't run out tomorrow or in a decade or two's time but it will run out medium term enough that we need to start finding other ways to generate energy now-ish and start just using oil for the stuff you can only use oil for.

2) Security of energy supply. The places the dwindling supply of oil come from include some of the most politically unstable areas in the world. It's a good idea not to have your economic system dependent on imports from places liable to either end up being your enemies or chronically unstable/anarchic. The places where new oil fields are being explored aren't much better. The place where nice cheap gas comes from is currently flexing its muscles with reactivated bomber fleets and new missile systems and drooling over the prospect of having the ability to literally switch the lights off in Western Europe if we don't keep in line politically.

Of course there are huge obstacles to switching to less carbon-intensive energy sources - people get upset about having a wind farm or nuclear power station in the neighbourhood, the transition is extremely costly in terms of equipment in the short term, some of the technologies aren't perfected, etc. etc.

But the triple problem of climate change, the decline in oil supply and insecurity of supply mean that the problems of changing have got to be second order problems compared to the problems of not changing.

This is a set of issues that are so big that governments have to say stuff the electoral consequences and do the right thing. There are large, chunky ways to cut carbon-based energy consumption quickly. Each new nuclear power station provides about 2% of the UK's current energy needs if my memory is correct. Big wave power schemes across major estuaries can provide double or triple that each. Let's just get a move on with building some of both. People will thank us for it in a couple of generations time.

Oh and while we're at it let's ban a few of the most wasteful luxury uses of polluting energy just to set an example - with the new Eurostar line getting to Paris and Brussels so fast how about either banning London-Paris and London-Brussels flights or taxing them so much that they cease to be economically viable... I await someone telling me this is against competition law, in which case let's change the law.

8 Comments:

Blogger Chris Paul said...

Interesting Luke. Will post on this later.

6:15 pm, October 25, 2007

 
Blogger UK Daily Pundit said...

You were winning me over until the last bit Luke. Ban this, ban that, you can't help yourselves. I can see the electorate 'banning' the Labour government at the next election if that's your solution to everything.

7:11 pm, October 25, 2007

 
Anonymous Ted Harvey said...

Luke I wholly with you on all you say.

I just feel that there is a really huge historical opportunity for the UK if it focuses now on becoming thee world leader with a post-oil, pro-green, pro-sustainable economy.

Wee Denmark is already doing some remarkable things on this - and they do not have a huge potential legacy from oil revenues to benefit from). As for Scotlnad, we have all the wind and water you could ever need for re-usable energy production means.

But (sigh) I'll bet the one big point we disagree on is the need to avoid nuclear power. The more and more it's gone into (whenever Government cover-ups and obfuscation permit) the more and more we find the true long term financial and environmental costs of nuclear do not stack up.

8:17 pm, October 25, 2007

 
Anonymous jdc said...

Well quite. We could always start digging up coal again, I suppose!

As for peak - we're definitely at a plateau, there's some stuff off-stream due to come back on, and Saudi has a good 500k barrels a day of capacity to add. However some very big fields have definitely peaked, and some others are rumoured to have peaked.

I'd say we'll probably see 90 million barrels a day pumped at some point in the coming year if OPEC open the taps (and there's no crisis like Iran ceasing exports), but I don't think we'll ever see 100 million. (We're currently at about 86).

Meanwhile, can't resist resurrecting this - even Alistair Darling is losing his temper with Northern Rock, and they're spending taxpayers' money twice as quickly as the entire NHS. I wonder what the Bank of England's tolerance limit is? I guess 30 billion.

Tomorrow's poll is rubbish for us, look forward to your take - I guess it's not that bad in the context of mid-term and the froth, just disappointing compared to a fortnight ago - and at least it's even worse for the Lib Dems!

11:07 pm, October 25, 2007

 
Anonymous Peter Kenyon said...

Why not read my blog here

http://petergkenyon.typepad.com/peterkenyon/2007/10/renewables---an.html

in which I highlight a technology that could add to the generating capacity from tidal power.

Also why not think about the implications of roofing and cladding every building new and old with solar energy convertion devices to warm water and generate electricity, as well as insulating better and using energy more sparingly? That could help reduce the unemployment figures.

There was a good piece by Jeremy Leggett md of Solar Century in yesterday's Guardian here:

http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/story/0,,2198508,00.html

explaining why the Germans (for example) as so far ahead of the UK in renewables.

And if you would like to visit the biggest solar panel array of its type in the UK come and see the Bootstrap Company (of which I am a trustee) in Dalston.

3:03 pm, October 26, 2007

 
Anonymous observer's friend said...

Remind me ... which stupid Chancellor decided to keep the VAT on energy saving products, such as draught excluders and loft insulation, at a massive 17.5% yet reduced the VAT on fuel to 5.0%?

What sort of incentive does that provide for energy conservation?

8:44 pm, October 26, 2007

 
Anonymous SSE said...

When we moved recently I used the GreenPower guide to check out our options. Speaking with my buying power is what I love most. More ways to do this please!

6:35 pm, June 20, 2010

 
Anonymous switch energy said...

Really an interesting post.Thanks for an insightful post.It’s my first visit.I like very much your way of presentation.Keep up the good works and hope you post again soon.

6:36 pm, June 20, 2010

 

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