Friday, May 30, 2008

Bring back King Coal

According to the BBC, an estimated 2.5 million households are in "fuel poverty" with things set to get worse over the coming months.

Concern for those on low incomes is growing since energy suppliers announced steep rises in the price of gas and electricity. All the major suppliers announced double-digit increases in early 2008, and more rises are expected by the end of the year.

Leaving aside the dubious label of "fuel poverty" (based on a household spending more than 10% of it's income on fuel - if you include fuel for vehicles I expect most of us are in "fuel poverty"!) the thing that strikes me about this is that the plans for addressing the problem do nothing to address the real cause.

Most of the energy companies have so-called "social tariffs", and ministers are proposing that data identifying poorer families could be shared with the companies to ensure they pay the cheaper rates.

How will this help? It might have a short term impact, but after a couple more price rises it will soon be cancelled out. The problem will not be fixed by helping people pay their bills in the short term - the problem with fuel is the rapidly rising cost due to increasing worldwide demand and a limited supply of resources.

Interestingly, Friends of The Earth - one of the chief NGO alarmists who claim that CO2 will cause unstoppable global warming leading to Britain becoming a Mediterranean idyll/tropical paradise/desert wasteland (delete as appropriate) have an opinion which the BBC consider worthwhile repeating. Why? I don't know - Friends of the Earth are not generally friends of people.

Ed Matthew of Friends of the Earth said: "The new fuel poverty measures announced today won't fix the problem - people will still be left out in the cold.

What cold, Ed? According to you we're all going to be burning on a hell on earth inside a couple of years so why worry about the cold?

"The only way to warm up our four million fuel-poor homes is to super-insulate them and help them produce their own energy. "

One wonders how such a naive opinion can get repeated on a major news site - but it's one of those wonderful "green" NGOs who the Beeb love so much even if they are really just a bunch of anti-human anti-capitalism deep red Marxists covered in a green coat - watermelons.

How exactly are people supposed to generate their own energy? Solar panels? They won't even provide enough energy for the hot water. Wind power? Do me a favour - even assuming it generates anything like enough at best (which it won't), at worst it won't produce any energy at all. What are people supposed to do then?

It might work if we all go back to living in early 20th century conditions - no telly, no computers, very little electricity, going to bed when it gets dark and using candles to light the way - but who wants that? Plus the fact that those people at least had a warm fire to heat their rooms - something which FoE are keen to avoid at all costs.

The problem is that Britain has become reliant on resources which are too limited - gas and oil. Renewables such as wind and solar power are never going to solve the problem because they are unreliable sources. When the wind is too weak or too strong wind farms generate NO power. When there is no sun, solar power is useless. Reliance on such resources is a recipe for power failures on a grand scale - and quite often at a time when demand is at it's highest. Wind and solar power requires conventional power generation as a back up - and to be capable of taking over from those sources when they are not generating power those conventional sources need to be kept running ALL the time - so why not just use them instead? It would be cheaper and far more reliable. Except of course they are running on limited resources themselves - oil and gas.

Nuclear is the favoured government option but this is dubious too. Nuclear power generation is very expensive.

The daft thing is, Britain has an abundant natural resource which we barely touch anymore - coal. There are some 100 years of coal reserves in Britain which are easily accessible. There is a thousand years of reserves in total which will become accessible with the development of new extraction techniques over time.

But coal has been demonised as a "dirty" resource because it generates lots of CO2 (even though CO2 is an essential for life - go figure) - so coal is ignored as an option. Contrary to prevailing opinion, there is a growing belief that the earth, far from getting warmer, is about to enter a period of prolonged and substantial cooling inside 10-20 years. We could be heading towards conditions similar to the Little Ice Age where the Thames regularly freezes over and snow covers much of England for months at a time.

If this scenario is proven correct - and I believe it will - then we are going to have a huge problem in this country. Not just with poor families - everyone. People will die in their thousands every winter. If the period of cooling lasts for any sustained period of time, millions will die.

And all because we refused to use the resource which our nation has in abundance. Coal. If we start now - recommission old mines, open new ones, build new coal fired power stations - then we can be prepared for the future. Everyone will have an affordable energy supply and we may just get through the chilly times without too much hassle. If we don't then people will die in their millions.

No comments: