Thursday, October 23, 2008

Kingsnorth: What's going on with that?

From the words of John Hutton at the Labour party conference it looked like labour where going to go ahead with new coal. That looks less certain with Ed Milliband in charge of the newly created department for energy and climate change. But the question remains, why would they do that?

Externally they seem likely to present this dastardly deed as a sensible energy policy that will benefit the UK as it exports the newly developed CCS technology to china. This is arrogant, most new plants in China are more efficient than ours and Chinese development skills are growing fast. It also seems to be countered by there lack of urgency. What lack of urgency I hear you say, didn't Malcolm Wicks say that we use CCS or loose that battle against climate change? That sounds urgent. Well, unfortunately it looks like that was just publicly acceptable rhetoric.

The July 2008 Environmental Audit Committee report on CCS had several conclusions including the very simple

“We are extremely disappointed by the lack of [government] progress on ccs”.
It also stated that:

“CCS may itself have contributed to the resurgence of coal”.
This cross part group of MP's seem to think that CCS is just an excuse, they even war against this cynical policy making:

“The possibility of ccs should not be used as a fig leaf to give unabated coal-fired power plants an appearance of environmental acceptability”.
But in that case what are the government doing? I`m afraid they are doing exactly the same thing as they are trying to do with the UK Climate Bill. They want all of the climate bill quotas to be subsumed within the EU ETS. They are trying to make coal or no coal, climate bill or no climate bill, irrelevances. They want to rely entirely on the EU ETS. They are deeply rooted to the free market doctrine that has been imploding in the financial markets over recent weeks.

“Any new coal plant will have no impact on the overall emissions effort by the EU as it will operate within the EU ETS cap so neither ccs nor carbon emissions would be part of any application”

Throwing all your eggs in one basket like this involves great hubris and more than a little disregard for the reality of how real societies differ from economic models.

If we add to this convenient mindset the very real challenge that the UK has, namely an energy gap of perhaps 20GW by 2020, then we can see a little pressure on an slippery energy minister is likely to lead in the direction desired by e-on.

In conclusion. I think that a tactic of now new coal without ccs makes sense. However it is also important to address the other points; security of supply (renewables intermitancy), cost (of renewables) and the complete reliance on the EU ETS. Overregulating, idealists without alternatives is going to be how we are painted.

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