Wed May 23rd, 2012 at 06:20:56 AM EST
So I cut out the word "British" which is in the original title. I don't think it matters much.
Simon Jenkins at the Guardian lashes out at energy policies, particularly targeting the current British government goals. Of course he also lashes at nuclear and onshore wind. His stance, it seems, is one shared with George Monbiot's: haphazardly embracing nuclear while questioning the merits of onshore wind.
Yet that's exactly where I don't want to go. With all the caveats and personal preferences Jenkins bears set aside, I particularly can't disagree too much with his basic premise as it mirrors much of my own journey:
British energy policy is a dark underworld of fanatics | Simon Jenkins | Comment is free | The Guardian
Do not read on if you want a conclusion on this subject. For years I have read papers, books, surveys and news stories, and am little wiser. I trust to science and am ready to believe there is some great mathematician, some Fermat's last theorem, who can write an equation showing where energy policy should turn. I have never met him.
The equation would start with the current market price of coal, gas, oil, nuclear and so-called "renewables". That would give simple primacy to coal and gas. The equation would then factor in such variables as security of supply, which – being imponderable – can be argued from commercial interest and prejudice. Then it would have to take account of global warming and the virtue of lower carbon emissions. At this point the demons enter.
We must consider CO2 reduction through substituting gas for coal, carbon capture, nuclear investment, biomass, wind, wave, solar and tidal generation. We must consider the application of fiscal policy to gas and petrol use, to energy efficiency and house insulation. Each has a quantity attached to it and each a fanatical lobby drooling for subsidies. As for achieving a remotely significant degree of global cooling, that requires world diplomacy – which has, as yet, proved wholly elusive.
There is more.
Particularly his thoughts on the narratives that are wielded resonate.
Energy policy is a dark underworld populated by fanatics and necromancers. Read through the literature and you will learn that nuclear means tsunamis, terrorists and Frankenstein monsters, or is as harmless as a local radiology clinic. Biomass is the new dawn, or threatens half the world's forests. Wind turbines are free energy, or they tear up peat and exhaust Mongolian minerals.
We face a "peak oil" crisis, or we do not. We face a nuclear winter, or not. We can live for ever on shale gas, or it causes earthquakes. The world is doomed anyway (James Lovelock) or not doomed at all (Nigel Lawson). All Europe could be wired to the Saharan desert, or perhaps only in theory.
We feel our way through this miasma by relying on gut instinct or on those we blindly trust. The public sums allotted in grants and price enhancements to green energy – with 8 million people facing fuel poverty – are so enormous they have bred an army of lobbyists clamouring to protect every programme for every resource under, and including, the sun. They pounce hysterically on any opponent of their favoured watt or therm.
What Jenkins truly wants is a Honest Broker - someone who steps above the swamp fed by streams of conflicting information. Even Jenkins himself suffers from personal preferences, which makes his piece a remarkable schizophrenic read.
It seems to me that anyone who even tries to rise above the fray will be mashed horridly by forcefully colliding frames or otherwise squelched by oodles of lobbyist money.
At least, I see no way out of this. Which means that society at large is delivered to the whims of amateurish opportunists struggling at the helm.
Please discuss at your own.