Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Oil, coal and climate denial

Heysham Power Station, from dockside. Showing ...Image via WikipediaThe recent events at the the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear reactors in Japan are restarting the debate about the future of our global energy supply. I live near Heysham nuclear power station, where a third reactor is a possibility for the future. I suspect a reassessment is taking place right now about if and when it may ever happen.

Also, over recent months, there has a been a steady stream of people denying that climate change is attributable to emissions generated by human activity. I remember being alerted to the parallels of CO2 levels and climate as long ago as the late 70s in New Scientist, and it seems to me to make the most sense of the available data.

But even if one could prove that climate change was entirely natural and in no way related to fossil fuels and flatulent livestock, surely there are reasons to change our dependance on fossil fuels? The need for security and stability of supply must make us look to alternatives to oil, gas and even coal. The problem is that the much heralded revival of the nuclear option to solve the energy gap has now been questioned.

It seems to me that the UK needs much more focus on energy conservation, and renewable generation for reasons beyond the 'green' (much as I agree with them). If we were really serious about it, then we would be seeing a huge expansion in solar, wind and water-based generation just for self-interest. And relatively modest investments and incentives could provide jobs and long-term consumption savings. For example, if solar panels were mandatory on all new buildings, they could be fitted for much lower costs than retro-fitting, and the ongoing benefits would be substantial for the occupants. But where is the drive from government?

Meanwhile, I look at our church roof. Like most churches, we are east-west aligned, with a south-facing pitched roof, perfect for solar generation. That would be a start - every parish church in the land becomes a little power station. I bet most churches could generate more than they use. It's just the problem of getting English Heritage to let us put PV panels on them...
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