UK & Europe - Mar 22
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We'll open a nuclear power station every 18 MONTHS, say Tories
James Chapman, The Daily Mail
One new nuclear power station would be opened every 18 months under a Conservative blueprint to avoid the first widespread electricity blackouts since the 1970s.
Shadow energy spokesman Greg Clark told the Daily Mail there would be 'no limit' on the expansion of nuclear power under a Tory government.
'In the past, we haven't been entirely clear - this is a very clear statement that we are in favour of nuclear power,' he said.
Mr Clark said he intended to allow energy firms to open at least one new nuclear plant every 18 months, starting in 2018, to help plug a looming power gap.
A Conservative government would ask Parliament to approve a national energy plan, limiting the chances of legal challenges by environmental groups.
Mr Clark also set out proposals to reward communities which agree to host wind farms, saying they will benefit from discounted electricity bills and be allowed to keep business rates averaging £70,000 a year to spend locally.
The shadow minister, who will today unveil the Tories' policy with David Cameron, warned that Britain has had no clear energy strategy for 13 years under Labour.
He said ministers had failed in their fundamental duty to ensure security and diversity in the nation's energy supply.
The Government has admitted that it expects power cuts for the first time since the 1970s as the supply of electricity fails to meet demand at peak times...
(19 March 2010)
UK must transform to meet future energy needs, warn top engineers
Darmian Carrington, The Guardian
The UK's most eminent engineers have warned that the biggest set of investments and social changes ever seen in peacetime are needed to meet the country's energy needs in the coming decades, while cutting greenhouse gas emissions.
The changes include a transformation of the nation's draughty homes and cuts in how far people commute to work, as well as a vast expansion of wind and solar power and dozens of new nuclear or "clean coal" power plants.
The authors of the Royal Academy of Engineering report, published today, say the existing level of political will and the market-led approach to energy planning cannot deliver the fundamental restructuring needed.
"We are nowhere near having a plan," said Prof Sue Ion, who led the report. "These are massive projects. It requires a huge exercise all through government, and needs to come from the very top and go down through all departments such as transport and local government."
"What we are talking about is making sure our children and grandchildren have an energy infrastructure that is fit for purpose."
Another author, Prof Roger Kemp, from Lancaster University, said: "It needs the political enthusiasm that was behind the war on terror after 9/11."
The team devised scenarios for the UK in 2050, starting with achievable cuts in energy usage and the maximum possible amount of renewable energy. Next they calculated how much fossil fuel could then be used while still meeting the UK's planned action on climate change, an 80% cut in carbon emissions by 2050. In all scenarios, that left an energy gap that was filled by dozens of new nuclear power stations and coal stations fitted with technology to prevent carbon dioxide entering the atmosphere...
...What the UK needs in 2050 to keep the lights on and fight global warming
• More than 20,000 wind turbines, on and off onshore
• 36m² of solar panels on each house, or equivalent
• 1,000 miles of Pelamis "sea-snake" wave power machines
• A tidal power barrage across the Severn and 2,300 tidal turbines elsewhere
• The burning of farm, forest and food waste for electricity, and transport biofuels, equivalent to 26 large coal-powered stations
• About 40 new power stations using either nuclear or "clean coal" technology
• Use cut by 75% compared with today and used largely for transport or home heating, but not both
• 20% cut in energy use by white goods and gadgets, and a 40% cut in home heating
(18 March 2010)
The 32-page report can be accessed here.
The islands of black gold
Peter Wilby, The New Statesman
One calm, blue April morning nearly 28 years ago, I switched on my television to watch something I never expected to see in my lifetime: the British fleet putting out to sea to wage war. A half-forgotten colony on the other side of the world had been invaded, its 1,800 inhabitants - they were not then full British citizens - crushed by a foreign junta. National pride and honour had to be restored. We were back in the age of Palmerston.
Or at least in the age of Churchill. Over the ensuing weeks, as the spring days lengthened and we moved from phoney war (as the fleet sailed, everybody expected a negotiated settlement) to real shooting, the nation anxiously awaited news. Though many gathered round the TV, it might as well have been the radio as it was in the 1940s, because only sparse and belated footage got back to London. Ships sank, men died (British losses in Afghanistan exceeded those in the Falklands only last month), land battles were won and lost. This was a proper war between proper military forces: no insurgents, no guerrillas, no talk of biological or nuclear weapons, no bombing of civilians. Yet, as in 1940, we stood alone, fighting without allies and against such odds that the US navy had assessed retaking the islands as "a military impossibility".
There was no significant dissent. Labour, under the leadership of that old CND stalwart, Michael Foot, was almost as bellicose as Margaret Thatcher's ruling Tories. The Falklanders were wholly of British descent and wished to remain under British rule, and so protests from even the most pacifist and anti-colonialist Britons were muted. The enemy was a fascist regime; it had invaded without provocation; Argentina was smaller in population and poorer than us, but not vastly so. Nobody mentioned vulgarities such as oil. After Suez in the 1950s, the retreat from empire in the 1960s and the economic humiliations of the 1970s, it was a war for national self-respect.
For Thatcher, the Falklands worked so perfectly that some suspected she had planned it from the start, encouraging Argentina to believe Britain wouldn't oppose an invasion. The war was over in seven weeks (about right for the modern attention span) and ended with the Argentinians' surrender in time for the World Cup, then beginning in Spain. Later disclosures that our forces were days away from running out of supplies only added to victors' glory.
...Though the quantity and quality of oil, and the feasibility of extracting it, are yet to be determined, the belief that rich deposits - perhaps as many as 60 billion barrels - lie beneath Falklands waters is not new. Shell drilled in 1998 and reported the probable existence of both oil and gas. It and other big companies lost interest only because the oil price - a quarter of what it is now - was too low to make commercial exploitation profitable.
...In his 1988 study of the Falklands dispute, Lowell Gustafson, a political scientist at Villanova University, Pennsylvania, concluded: "Had Argentina continued to license oil exploration . . . it is difficult to imagine how Britain could have stopped it. A use of force . . . against foreign corporations . . . would have been most unlikely." US support, he added, would have been equally unlikely; only Argentina's first use of force changed the equation.
Now the situation is reversed. Britain is pressing ahead with oil exploration, threatening further confirmation of its sovereignty. Is there anything Argentina can do?
(15 March 2010)
Are working hours being cut to save jobs?
Kevin Peachey, BBCNews
Tucked away in a Norfolk wood, a small team make soap by hand in a converted chicken shed.
But even here at Simply Soaps - a small operation set up 11 years ago with a grant from the Prince's Trust - it has been impossible to escape the downturn.
"This Christmas was not the same as others. Retailers were keeping their stock to a minimum," says founder Laurence Campion, in his sweet-smelling workshop in the family grounds.
"We were aware of the recession, but this was the first real sign of it."
With orders down by 5% to 15%, something had to give, and staff were told the factory would only run for three days a week.
"It was a tough decision to make. We took staff out for a meal. It was quite emotional, but everyone had a personal interest in us not going under," Laurence says.
They are far from the only business to reduce staff hours, and the growing number of part-time and temporary workers seems to have put the brakes on unemployment in the UK.
...So are people just resigned to taking part-time work because they are aware of the economic reality, or is there something else in it for them?
Nigel Meager, director of the Institute of Employment Studies, says that the tax credit system has added an extra financial incentive to taking these jobs.
"In previous recessions, if people were offered a low-paid part-time job it was not worth their while in taking it," he says.
"But now doing some hours of work means some are eligible for tax credits. It means some people who might previously have stayed out of the system still have a foothold in the labour market."...
(16 March 2010)