A Weblog monitoring coverage of environmental issues and science in the UK media. By Professor Emeritus Philip Stott. The aim is to assess whether a subject is being fairly covered by press, radio, and television. Above all, the Weblog will focus on science, but not just on poor science. It will also bring to public notice good science that is being ignored because it may be politically inconvenient.

Thursday, April 08, 2004

Green theology leads to an Alice-in-Winderland energy policy.....

Yet again, the new 'Life' Section of The Groaniad brings the newspaper down to earth. May I recommend a careful and thoughtful read of the excellent interview with Professor Jim Skea in today's issue: 'Rising to power' ('Life' Section, The Guardian, April 8)? "Skea has just been appointed research director of the government's new energy research centre, a role that lobs him into the heart of one of the most complex and pressing issues the country will face in coming decades. His job is to ensure Britain can morph from a grey land of coal and oil burning to a greener land of renewable energy and imported gas without so much as a flicker of the lights."

Greatly to his credit, Skea provides a pretty realistic response. Reading between the reporting lines, the interview demonstrates vividly the immense problems of trying to develop a sane energy policy when one is trapped between the Green theology of the Kyoto Protocol and the Green theology of no nuclear power or GM (biofuels). For example, Skea is refreshingly candid about issues like wind power:

"Windpower can only do so much. Because you can never be sure where and when the wind blows, windpower has the well-known drawback of intermittency. If more than around 20% of your power comes from wind, says Skea, then managing this unreliability becomes a big problem."

And about hydrogen: "'The problem is that the cheapest way of making hydrogen is to use fossil fuels. So if you burn hydrogen to power a car, you actually end up emitting more carbon than if you burned conventional fuel."

Moreover, he even admits something that is normally pushed particularly quickly under the carpet: "As an island, though, Britain is responsible for a tiny fraction of the world's greenhouse gases." Quite.

As I read the article, I both admired and felt sorry for Skea. Real-world energy supply can only be predicated on energy needs and on a full-range of energy options, not on environmental fears and paranoia. Green theology can only lead to an Alice-in-Winderland policy that in the end will blow us all away. I might as well start painting the roses.

Congratulations to the 'Life' Section for a valuable piece of reportage. Pity the rest of the newspaper doesn't follow suit. For the record, a couple of key topics are not really developed in the interview, including the long-term geological storage of carbon and clean coal (gasification, etc.).

Philip, feeling more like the old walrus daily. Breakfast - anyone for mock turtle soup? It's gloooooooorious! Souper even.

[New counter, June 19, 2006, with loss of some data]

WWW EnviroSpin Watch

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?