In may 2006 the Tories are open to suggestions for their Energy
Review. Here's my 2p worth:
Dear Alan Duncan
I must admit that I never dreamed in the 1980s I would be writing
to the Conservative Party in the hope of encouraging you to adopt
the green way of looking at energy matters. I was a Green Party
councillor in the 1980s in Conservative Woodspring, and while
there I developed a very low view of your party's environmental
awareness. My present MP, John Penrose, has been instrumental
in giving me a more positive view of Conservative individual politicians,
although I fear that your political and economic philosophy is
at the moment, sadly, on a par with the simple core tenet of Blairism
- "Business Rules OK". I am uncomfortably aware that
a party in opposition can be more green, and that once in power,
you will have to bend to the will of an entrenched Civil Service
- as well as media, business, and the EU. However, politics is
a strange business, and I care not a whit which party saves the
planet, so long as it is saved.
Having got that lot off my chest, I would like you to know that
there is a reasoned case against using nuclear power as a low-carbon
production system here: http://www.greenhealth.org.uk/Nuclear.htm
. A summary of the argument is linked on that page. A key specialist
text on the argument is here: http://www.stormsmith.nl/ explaining
why nuclear could only produce 4 years of low carbon electricity
for the world.
The energy review must fundamentally be about climate change.
The key thing to understand about the rational response to the
immense threat posed by global warming (GW) is that there is no
one single "magic bullet". GW is a systems failure,
and the response must come from a systemic (that is, wide-ranging,
interacting and total) approach beginning with a cognitive shift
to a new paradigm, a new way of thinking in terms of planetary
systems instead of sectional interests.
In particular, we need a new, Green, economics http://www.greenhealth.org.uk/GreenEconLonger.htm
, and a response to the threat using a multiplicity of means:
reduction in activity (yes, including less car and air journeys)
energy efficiency, diverse modalities of renewable energy, and
extensive carbon sinks.
I am sure that you are aware that energy efficiency is by far
the most cost effective way of reducing CO2 emissions, from simple
house and pipe insulation to Combined Heat and Power, a technology
that government seems determined to undervalue.
Renewable energy is often identified with "windmills".
(Not. Mills grind corn. Wind _Turbines_ produce electricity).
I am sure that you are aware that renewables are much wider, encompassing
solar water heating, Photovoltaics (PV), biomass, geothermal,
hydroelectric, ocean current, wave, tidal and many other, emerging,
technologies. It is the sum of these technologies that will meet
our needs, once we have reduced our expectations in a realistic
way. Government must stimulate the British talent for inventiveness
here. The point is that there is a wide spectrum, and we must
develop them all. Nuclear is so expensive, such a huge project,
that it would suck funding away from this multi-modal approach.
Be aware that the side effects of some renewable technologies
is positive. For instance, the Lanchester wave barrage can reduce
costal erosion. The Severn Barrage could prevent large areas of
Western England and Wales from inundation from sea level rise
(although it would no longer generate energy in that role).
The "Intermittency" argument against wind power is not
as strong as its proponents claim. The National Grid is able to
compensate for this, since if it there is no wind in Land's End,
it is quite likely that it will be breezy in John O'Groats. The
energy balancing mechanism can cope with intermittency, and John
Penrose will be able to tell you that I am involved in a promising
technology that will make the balancing mechanism much more efficient,
and that could bring the load factor of wind turbines up towards
(or even beyond) 80%.
The carbon sink and carbon offset approach needs sympathetic review.
Here I am tending to move ahead of many of my environmentalist
colleagues, who have been unenthusiastic in the past, because
they felt it detracted from the emissions reduction approach.
I personally feel that things are so desperate that we should
not reject any activity that offers a promise of mitigation.
I favour tree planting, and have for many years sent money to
Trees for Life, about £120 per annum, to fix my household's
CO2 emissions. If more people went down this route, we would enhance
the environment while mitigating global warming. The essential
point is that trees should be planted in a way that is ecologically
appropriate by local communities - not as monstrous industrialised
monocultures. It is possible that the rainforests could be regenerated
by these means.
Ocean fertilisation with iron salts to stimulate CO2 uptake by
phytoplankton has been suggested. Scientists pore over the question
of whether it would work. My response - do it, and let the scientists
then pore over the results. Science can study the intervention,
not just the problem. I am a doctor. We never know the result
of new treatments until we have applied them. We audit new treatments
to see that they are effective and non harmful. The experiment
could begin now, dripping iron salts (rust is not exactly in short
supply) from ferries as they move. This addition in a small area
would give oceanologists an opportunity to examine the impact.
I am writing in haste, off the top of my head, in order to encourage
you to get an overview of the topic, to see that the solution
will not come from a single, expensive, technological intervention
such as nuclear power. That latter approach is the stuff of science
fiction. The solution can only come from a multiplicity of diverse
interventions on a world wide basis in which everyone - individuals,
communities, businesses economists, politicians and philosophers
- takes part.
Thank you for applying yourself to this immensely important topic.