Greenest government ever – FAIL
I am sorry but, being positive is very hard work; especially when you find out that your government is being incredibly hypocritical. This happened to me last week, when I finally caught up with what the UK Coalition government did to our planning policy guidelines six months ago. First, however, here is a quick re-cap of the relevant issues:
With regard to carbon capture and storage (CCS or “clean coal”) and extracting methane from strata that do not release it naturally (by hydraulic fracturing or “fracking”), I have been on a bit of a personal odyssey in the last 6 months. With a background in geology and hydrogeology – and an MA in Environmental Politics – I would like to think I have a better-than-average appreciation of the issues. Therefore, although I think I have reached a destination, I still feel deeply troubled by both CCS and fracking.
I think humanity has proven itself to be so stupid – and so willing to allow worship of the god of economics to subvert sensible acknowledgement of the reality of science – that we will now have to rely upon making CCS work. This is because, if we don’t make it work, modern civilisation is probably history. Fracking on the other hand, remains – as David Roberts called it – an insane piece of collective hypnosis. Fracking is definitely not the answer. Fossil fuels are like heroin; they are a self-destructive habit we need to get off ASAP.
In the UK, we are now being told we are less than 3 years from blackouts (because sensible EU regulations will force the closure of our worst-polluting coal-fired power stations). That being the case, the solution should not be to do more of the same. The answer should be to move away from fossil fuels. The UK government is now preparing to spend billions of pounds supporting a new generation of fossil fuel based power generation infrastructure – power stations and distribution networks. However, the priority of our politicians should not be to preserve the profitability of fossil fuel business set up in the 19th Century; it should be to preserve the habitability of planet Earth into the 21st Century.
OK, so what of planning policy, etc.? Well, on the eve of the Conservative Party conference this week, here is the email I sent my MP last Friday:
Presuming you are attending, I hope you enjoy it. However, I am hoping you will read this brief email before Monday.
In light of the way in which our“greenest government ever” has removed Feed-in Tariff incentives for people to invest in Solar PV; overturned the presumption against opencast coal mining in planning policy; is forcing opencast developments on communities and county councils that had rejected them; and is ignoring its own scientific advisors to pursue decades of unabated gas-fired power generation… I am inclined to feel that my friendship (as opposed to membership) of the Conservative Party may be under threat.
If this is what happens while in a Coalition with the LibDems, goodness knows what will happen if we ever get a Conservative majority! Don’t get me wrong though; I am not about to vote LibDem or Labour. I cannot do so because I am not a Liberal; and Labour is still not living in the real world: Consequently, Ed Milliband’s speech to his own conference was memorable for only one thing – hypocrisy. Neither am I a fan of protest groups such as UKIP (because they are climate change deniers)… So I am basically very tempted to waste my vote on the ultimate protest group – the Green Party – at least I will have a clear conscience if I do that. However, the Conservative Party has 32 months in which it could yet decide to embrace reality and stop pretending that economics can invalidate science: I think economists are very unwise to pick a fight with either history or science. However… I hope you will watch this 1 minute and 47 second video…
With regard to the claims made in this email, the Coalition Government…
– Has failed to level the playing field with regard to early pioneers who decided to invest in domestic solar PV installations and has removed the incentives for large-scale Solar Farms. It has therefore made life very difficult for firms to predict where the market is heading. Wikipedia has a good summary here.
– Has removed the presumption against opencast coal mining in the National Planning Policy Framework, which now allows economic need to trump any concern over the environmental sustainability of burning coal.
– Is overturning decisions made my County Councils like Northumberland (Halton Lea Gate site) and is forcing opencast coal mining on communities that don’t want them.
– Has ignored the views of its own scientific advisors and is about to commit the UK to at least another 20 years of burning natural gas, which will be obtained predominantly from fracking (in order to limit our dependence on imported gas) using new power stations with no CCS technology (even if and when it becomes available).
Although I have some sympathy with local residents who don’t want opencast coal mining in their neighbourhood, restoration techniques are now much better than they used to be. Therefore, the reason these developments should be opposed is not because of their temporary effects on local communities (as unpleasant as they may be). These developments should be opposed because they are perpetuating the environmentally unsustainable use of the Earth’s resources; and increasing the financial burden that will fall on future generations trying to preserve a reasonably-hospitable environment here on planet Earth.
Therefore, although I am (or have been) a Conservative voter, I find this position hard to justify because David Cameron and George Osborne have proven themselves to be entirely in the pocket of big business and – even when confronted with the folly and/or illegality of what they are doing – they refuse to change course.
In short, I think they are in denial about the nature, scale and urgency of the need for us to decarbonise our energy generation systems as fast as possible and, as a consequence, I think power cuts will be only the beginning…