Energy

A lot of hot air is generated by much of the energy we produce and consume. We all face global annihilation unless we radically address the problems of global warming – largely created by man made increases in CO2 emissions. The use of fossil fuels and the production of carbon dioxide threaten our very existence. The UK generates less energy from clean, renewable sources than nearly every other European country. Just 2% of our total energy. Germany produces so much renewable energy that it exports electricity to France. They are also de commissioning all their nuclear plants but at the expense of burning more coal!

We need to invest in renewable resources and more efficient energy use, better insulation and conservation measures and a huge increase in recycling. Such investment will generate hundreds of thousands of jobs and secure employment throughout the UK and is good for peace and world security by helping us to rely less on foreign oil and other counties natural resources.

There is much debate about the extraction of shale gas (Fracturing or “Fracking”) rocks under ground, with coal and methane gasses escaping into the atmosphere. Those in favour say a larger domestic source of gas will lessen our reliance on foreign suppliers and offer a cheaper alternative energy. The Green Party is opposed as gas will not be publicly owned – its price and supply determined by commodity speculators. The US national gas price decline is not applicable to a small country like the UK and estimates indicate that there are only about 20 years of shale gas supplies available. This amount does not warrant the enormous environmental damage caused by extraction and the threat of earthquakes as experienced in Lancashire and methane gas escaping through our taps as is happening in the USA. The thirst for water for gas extraction could also lead to water shortages and certainly price rises.

In North Oxfordshire we have a very high Radon Gas area. Radon is a bigger potential cause of lung cancer than tobacco. Do we trust drillers such as Cuadrilla to handle Radon and other toxic substances safely, given that the government has given them consent  “to mark their own homework” in this respect?

“Fracking is a diversion from having a proper energy and green jobs policy which promotes continuing improvements in energy efficiency and investment in domestic renewables”

Wind turbines too have been controversial. Personally I, like many others, think they are beautiful. Far more so than electricity pylons covering the countryside, though these are acceptable now, long after their introduction. However, I have some reservations about the effectiveness and efficiency of in shore wind turbines. What is beyond question is the efficiency and effectiveness of off shore wind farms and  wave and tidal energy generation. The UK has 40% of Europe’s wind and tidal differences whilst Spain has 40% of its sunshine. We need a European wide co-operative energy policy to ensure security of supply and to mitigate the effects of energy commodity speculation.

We need to introduce stronger planning policies to support on shore wind, tidal, wave, solar and geothermal energy schemes and help local planning authorities to make more consistent decisions and to give micro-renewables “permitted development” status.

Moreover we need to roll back the Tory government’s policies of side-lining and undermining re-usable energy and green initiatives in favour of massive global fossil fuel corporations who drive carbon emissions purely for profit at the expense of a clean environment for generations to come.  In 2016 alone the Conservatives gave £6billion in public subsidies to fossil fuel companies whilst cancelling many green initiatives which David Cameron famously referred to as ‘all that green crap’.  Meanwhile they claim there’s not enough money in the coffers for the NHS.

Nuclear power

I am not convinced by the Green Party’s policy of opposing nuclear power on principle but the government’s plans for the development of the multi-billion pound Hinkley Point Nuclear power Station by the French and Chinese and paying twice the current market rate per megawatt hour of energy produced for the next 35 years is insane. However, nuclear power produced by plants using uranium is expensive and takes longer to produce than renewable energies. In addition to its known risks there is still no safe way of disposing of nuclear waste. Unlike coal though I believe there is still a place for different forms of nuclear power in our energy mix.

With Hinkley Point payment to the operators  will be “fully indexed to the consumer price index”. Guaranteed income for corporations, risk assumed by the tax payer – a deal that looks as bad as any private finance initiative contract. Not only that the clunky third generation power station chosen for Hinkley C is already outdated, beside the promise of integral fast reactors and liquid fluoride thorium reactors.

The chief scientific adviser at the government’s Energy department suggests that if integral fast reactors were deployed the UK’s stockpile of nuclear waste could be used to generate enough low carbon energy to meet all UK demand for 500 years. These reactors would keep recycling waste until hardly any remained: solving 3 huge problems – energy supply, nuclear waste and climate change – at once..

Thorium reactors use an element that is already extracted in large quantities as an unwanted by product of other mining industries. Hinkley Point, requiring uranium mining and still producing nuclear waste in 2063 is to commit 2oth century technologies through most of the 21st century.

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