Cutting carbon

The Conservatives had a great policy for cutting carbon outputs. It was called electricity privatisation. As soon as the industry was denationalised, it switched from building big coal power stations that were only around 35% fuel efficient, to building gas fired stations that were more than 50% fuel efficient. The dash for gas in our power industry ensured we could hit the Kyoto targets.

The present government has been unable to come up with a policy which has made a similar big impact on carbon output. They have dithered over nuclear, not put through enough renewables, and left open how they are to replace the old nuclear stations that soon have to be shut. They have failed to discipline the public sector, where the extra offices and staff burn ever more fuel to keep the bureaucracy turning. Ministers jet round the world, lecturing the rest of us on how we should travel less. At times they have adopted policies which seem to want to export fuel intensive activities to other countries, as if that helped cut world carbon output instead of merely shifting it to China or India.

However, they have now come up with a policy which is going to transform all that. It is called recession. It will cut our carbon output. The trouble is, it is going to cut a lot more as well, leading to a big increase in unemployment and a further weakening of our economy.

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  1. APL
    Posted November 1, 2008 at 12:28 pm | Permalink

    JR: "As soon as the industry was denationalised, it switched from building big coal power stations that were only around 35% fuel efficient, to building gas fired stations that were more than 50% fuel efficient."

    Fuel efficiency is a good in and of itself, the less fuel you have to consume to get a given amount of energy, the better.

    So you might think windmills are much more efficient. Except they are too erratic to be our primary source of energy.

    There are also other considerations, fuel security for one. We have seen how the Russians have been prepared to threaten Europe with their dependency on Russian Gas Exports.

    One of your posters has pointed out that although we still have significant coal reserves in the UK, much of the highest quality most accessible reserves have already been mined and consumed.

    Then there is tidal flows as a source of electricity generation, we are after all surrounded by the seas and oceans.

    Finally, there is nuclear energy. France produces significant nuclear generated electricity, I think we should too. I also think that the sale of British energy to the French was a mistake, driven no doubt by the Governments desperation to raise cash to spend on its army of inspectors and snoopers!

    Oh, and the subject of you post, 'cutting carbon'? Apart from the fact that carbon dioxide is not a pollutant so it is really irrelevant if we reduce its production from man made sources, perhaps you could during one of your next parliamentary speeches, invite the government benches to contribute to a lower carbon economy by holding their breath for an extended period.

  2. Bazman
    Posted November 1, 2008 at 6:37 pm | Permalink

    The Conservatives reason I suspect for the 'dash for gas' was little, if anything to do with carbon emissions. The clue to this is in the name 'Conservative' Most do not believe in carbon emissions or more importantly do not want to believe carbon emissions are a bad thing. Besides most carbon emissions come from heating and transport. What did the Conservatives ever do to reduce these?
    The change to gas I suspect was political. Coal fired stations are labour intensive. Digging the coal and running the plant by its nature requires skilled workers being paid real wages which involves unions. Polish,Ukrainian and Russian coal is cheaper because of the lack of real unions which means little safety. The safety records of these countries and China in coal mining is abysmal.
    Gas plants once built need little manpower other than maintenance and technicians. The political implications of the reliance or even the wisdom of burning a precious resource like gas in power stations was not considered. Until now.
    A real solution for Britain's energy needs in the real world will involve coal and nuclear fired power stations. coupled with serious energy conservation projects and laws. Politically very dangerous for any party. The people who build and obtain the resources to safely run these power stations do not work for minimum wage and the work cannot be done on the cheap. Got that? so energy will not be expensive politically dangerous.
    This and the next government will never grasp these facts so expect to see more daft wind and growing fuel ideas. More realistically foolish deals with Russia and importing LNG (liquefied natural gas) using massive gas tankers from politically stable countries. Winging it as usual.
    I've noticed that the price of small petrol/diesel generators has fell quite considerably in recent years. Cheap nasty one for less than £100. Generate your own and grow your own vegetables. why should the state help you?

    Reply: the main reason for the dash for gas was it was more efficient and therefore cheaper – passed on in lower prices.

  3. Posted November 2, 2008 at 12:27 am | Permalink

    The use of gas for power generation was as stupid then as it is now. Politicians will say it was a good idea, for they know no better; the engineer will hold his head in his hands at the folly of it all. A valuable commodity wasted for short term expedience. Like all governments putting off hard decisions caught up with that government leaving only one course of action. The nuclear power stations should have been built by the last Conservative government, twenty years and more have been wasted, now we have to go and beg the french for technology in which we used to be a world leader.
    And you lot wonder why we despair of the political system ?

  4. DennisA
    Posted November 2, 2008 at 1:42 pm | Permalink

    Carbon reduction is a computer game now turning in profits for a few and putting up the cost of energy for the many. It is totally irrelevant to the temperature of the planet, which many people are just starting to notice is falling, in spite of the year on year increases in CO2.

  5. Derek W. Buxton
    Posted November 2, 2008 at 4:34 pm | Permalink

    Well said DennisA, you beat me to it. Why does almost every politico, and even the Heir to the Throne, keep banging on about climate change and CO2. People have put a set of assumptions into a computer and then produced dogma based on it. Ever heard the phrase "garbage in, garbage out "? The climate has always changed and always will, there is nothing man can do about it. Not enough is, or ever will be known about how it works, any thing you may attempt could have unforseen consequences. Face it, the law of unforseen consequences is alive and well, look at how we are governed. As Parliament is supposed to hold the executive to account, why did only 5 MPs, was it, vote against the Carbon Emmisions Bill. We do not have the money in any case. Stupidity reigns, I'm afraid.

  6. Derek W. Buxton
    Posted November 4, 2008 at 1:39 pm | Permalink


    In my comment of the 2nd November there was a serious question, "why do so many buy into the man made climate change idea"? There are so many flaws in the reasoning apart from the question of from whence is the money is going to come, that one despairs. The Country is broke, if your party were to assume power after a General Election it would be to a disastrous financial situation.

    • APL
      Posted November 5, 2008 at 4:34 pm | Permalink

      Derek W. Buxton: "why do so many buy into the man made climate change idea?"

      Because the education system has gone to pot.

      Because even though religion is laughed at and reviled, Ecofacisism is the new religion.

      Because MP's (in all three parties) are in the thrall of the party machine. The party comes first, MPs second, constituents who should be first a long way third.

      All of that would matter if the Parliament wasn't just a cypher for the European Union.

  7. Derek W. Buxton
    Posted November 5, 2008 at 7:55 pm | Permalink

    Thank you for the reply, it does ring true, but I do wonder if it is not more to do with the money that can be made from it. Certainly education is not what it was when I went to school, by a very long way. How on earth can expensive, very, decisions be made on this basis though? Verily the lunatics are running the asylum!

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    John Redwood won a free place at Kent College, Canterbury, He graduated from Magdalen College Oxford, has a DPhil and is a fellow of All Souls College. A businessman by background, he has been a director of NM Rothschild merchant bank and chairman of a quoted industrial PLC.

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