Our Energy Policy
Hodgson, Peter, Contemporary Review
THE recent Government decisions concerning the gas, coal and nuclear industries show once again the lack of a coherent long-term energy policy. Policies seem to be dictated by short-term economic considerations with little or no thought for the future.
The first of these decisions is what is called the 'dash for gas'. Several new gas-fired stations are being built, but it is far from obvious that they will compete economically now, and according to the energy expert Professor Fells the price of gas is likely to double in the next ten years as the North Sea reserves are depleted. Dr. Winterton of Bradford University has estimated that the new gas policy will add |pound~1 billion to our energy bill and force the closure of 17 coal-fired power stations.
This is possibly part of the reason why it has also been decided to close a large number of our remaining coal mines in spite of widespread public support for the miners. Another reason is that it may be cheaper to import coal than to mine it ourselves. As the gas runs out we shall need more coal, but will be unable to provide it for ourselves. Is it not then likely that our overseas suppliers, seeing that we have to buy their coal, will gradually raise their price, to our acute discomfort?
In the modern world, it is very desirable whenever possible to avoid dependence on overseas supplies of vital materials. That is why the French, for example, lacking both oil and coal, decided to invest heavily in nuclear energy, so that now 75 per cent of their electricity comes from nuclear power stations. In a few years the result of our present policies will force us to buy overseas coal, when we are still sitting on huge deposits of our own. Once a coal mine is abandoned, it soon becomes unworkable; it cannot be effectively mothballed. We may regret those closures.
Although it provides about 20 per cent of our electricity (50 per cent in Scotland) nuclear power is widely regarded as a dead duck. The decision not to include the nuclear power stations in the privatisation programme seemed to be the last straw. Is this really the end of the road …
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Publication information: Article title: Our Energy Policy. Contributors: Hodgson, Peter - Author. Magazine title: Contemporary Review. Volume: 262. Issue: 1527 Publication date: April 1993. Page number: 169+. © 1999 Contemporary Review Company Ltd. COPYRIGHT 1993 Gale Group.
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