Gordon Brown - Its Time To Reduce Dependence On Oil  

Posted by Big Gav in , , , ,

The Guardian has an open letter from British PM Gordon Brown saying that Britian needs to become a low carbon economy and reduce dependence on oil - "We must all act together".

The global economy is facing the third great oil shock of recent decades. The oil price, just $10 a barrel a decade ago, has reached $135, pushing up the price of petrol and domestic heating as well as contributing to higher food prices. And I know that families up and down the country are feeling the impact in the cost of filling up at the petrol station and in the rise in gas and electricity bills.

As every country faces increased costs, it is now understood that a global shock on this scale requires global solutions. This is why the UK is arguing that at the top of the economic agenda for the forthcoming G8 summit in Japan should be a global strategy for addressing the impact of higher oil prices.

The cause of rising prices is clear: growing demand and too little supply to meet it both now and - perhaps of even greater significance - in the future. Higher demand is one of the major results of the scope, speed and scale of globalisation as Asian economies, as well as Opec countries themselves, demand more oil. To take one example: by 2020 there could be as many as 140m cars in China - more than three times as many as today. Overall, by 2020, global demand for energy will rise by 50%.

It is the market's belief that ever-growing demand will continue to outstrip supply that has pushed up the oil price. And we are becoming increasingly aware of the technical, financial and political barriers to the production of more oil. Every country must find ways of being more efficient and diversifying supply. And as continuing high oil prices present us all with an immense challenge, the way we confront these issues will define our era.

While the world will always seek new sources of supply, and we must continue to reduce barriers to investment, our strategic interests - reducing energy costs, increasing our energy security, tackling climate change - all now point in the same direction: decreasing dependency on oil, through substitution with other energy sources and through energy efficiency. And what we do to change the balance for the medium and long term can have an effect in the short term because it can give greater certainty about future supply and demand, and create a more stable market.

So our goal that Britain becomes a low-carbon economy is now an economic priority as well as an environmental imperative. And if we are to ensure a better deal for consumers, energy security and lower greenhouse gas emissions, Britain, Europe and the world will have to change how we use energy and the type of energy we use.

So, as John Hutton has said, we need to accelerate the development and deployment of alternative sources of energy, reducing global dependence on oil. Britain will increase its investment in renewables, including decentralised generation. We will build one of the world's first commercial-scale carbon capture and storage coal plants and we have committed to a nuclear building programme to ensure that the UK's emissions and dependence on fossil fuels do not rise as existing nuclear stations close.

He might want to rethink that last bit about swapping some new nuclear power stations in for old ones as they stop working - the decommissioning costs are horrendous.
The cost of cleaning up the UK's ageing nuclear facilities, including some described as "dangerous", looks set to rise above £73bn, the BBC has learned. A senior official at the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority said the bill would rise by billions of pounds.

Nineteen sites across the country, some dating from the 1950s, are due to be dismantled in the coming decades. A spokesman for the Department for Business said it was ready for an adjustment in the clean-up costs. In January, the National Audit Office said that the cost of decommissioning ageing power sites had risen from £12bn to £73bn.

At the largest site, Sellafield, on the Cumbrian coast, I saw for myself one of the "ponds" in which an unknown mass of radioactive material was dumped in the 1950s. Beneath the unruffled surface of the water lies an unrecorded collection of rusting metal containers holding everything from nuclear fuel rods to radioactive waste. Beside it, workers are constructing a vast new building to handle the material when a retrieval operation eventually gets under way.

Speaking to the BBC, Jim Morse, a senior director at the authority, said of the projected cost: "I think it's a high probability that in the short term it will undoubtedly go up. "We've still a lot to discover, we haven't started waste retrieval in those parts of the estate where the degradation and radioactive decay has been at its greatest."

When asked if the cost increases could run into billions of pounds, Mr Morse said: "I'm sure it'll be some billions, I really don't know. "No-one's done this before. It's very difficult to find another measure. There's nothing in engineering terms that allows you to extrapolate from what you have today."

A pilot project to investigate the task of dismantling has been under way for years at one of the most distinctive landmarks at Sellafield - the giant sphere of the 1950s-era Windscale Advanced Gas-cooled Reactor.

And the reliability of the things isn't too inspiring either, with Britain's largest reactor, Sizewell B, having a sudden and unexplained outage yesterday.
Hundreds of thousands of people were hit by electricity blackouts yesterday when seven power stations shut down. The unscheduled stoppages were regarded as an unprecedented sign of the fragility of Britain’s power infrastructure.

Operations were cancelled, people were stuck in lifts, traffic lights failed and fire engines were sent out on false alarms. Householders were unable to use any appliances or make phonecalls as the blackouts hit areas including Cleveland, Cheshire, Lincolnshire and London.

It was unclear last night why the power stations had failed. As the cuts escalated, the National Grid was forced to issue the most serious possible warning — “demand control imminent” — and urged suppliers to provide lower-voltage electricity to meet demand.

Energy suppliers affected by the shutdown, including British Energy and EON, said that they could not reveal the reasons for the cuts, nor would they say when some disrupted stations might resume service, because disclosure could affect the wholesale price of electricity. ...

At midday the Sizewell B nuclear power station, run by British Energy in Suffolk, and the Longanett coal-fired power station, run by Scottish Energy in Fife, went offline within two minutes of each other. ... Some power stations remained shut last night. A British Energy spokesman said that the Sizewell B reactor was offline late yesterday, although a restart plan was under way.


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