Power Crazy - Hinkley Point

by Daphne Liddle

PLANNING for our future energy supplies is a difficult problem with no straightforward simple answers. But the Con-Dem Coalition is going out of its way to choose all the wrong answers that will put us — individually and as a country — in unending debt and at life-threatening risk form both chemical and radiation pollution.

We have just seen another round of the “big six” energy companies increasing their prices of domestic fuel by up to 10 per cent, meaning that more and more people on low incomes are facing the prospect of a very cold winter.

We are told to save money by switching supplier but this is like choosing which thug you want to be mugged by. There’s no difference between them.

The Government seems incapable of preventing this and its industry watchdog Ofgem is pathetically impotent. But the Government doesn’t really want to do anything; it doesn’t care.

Labour leader Ed Miliband has promised to force a freeze on energy prices but the internationally- based companies will find a way round this. The only way to resolve this problem is to renationalise the industry and the demand for this to happen is growing.

Then last week the Coalition signed a 40-year deal with the French-based energy company EDF to build a new nuclear power station at Hinckley Point in Somerset.

Even if you agreed with the nuclear option this deal is crazy. The Government has promised to pay EDF and its consortium double the market rate for its electricity.

The extra money is supposed to cover costs for research and development. But the technology to be used at Hinckley Point is already out of date. And guess who will cover the costs if anything goes wrong?

very very dangerous

The latest nuclear technology is capable of using its own waste materials over and over again — ending up with a minimum amount remaining. But even that minimum is very very dangerous and a problem yet to be resolved. Hinckley Point will produce a lot of highly radioactive waste.

There no plan for decommissioning it once its useful life is over and that will leave enormous costs to a future generation that are not being included in the current accounting.

The 40-year deal with EDF which could cost up to £80 billion in the long-run has been described as the worst PFI deal ever.

Most of the rest of the world is now wisely shunning nuclear power after the disasters at Three Mile Island, Chernobyl and Fukushima.

So what could we use for future energy? This country is still sitting on enormous quantities of coal. We are told that coal and other fossil fuels will hasten the dangers of climate change. But there are “clean coal” technologies to extract the pollutants. We are told they are too expensive but that is a relative value. The other options are looking more expensive every day. And the by-products of washing coal emissions are also valuable.

best options

The best options would of course be renewable energy from sun, wind and tides and the use of them is increasing in most of the world. Only our Con-Dem Coalition has been cutting back on the development of these technologies. It’s not so easy for giant companies to make a profit from homes covered in solar panels.

And we could of course cut down on energy usage. We are told all the time to turn off unnecessary lights, insulate our homes, save a bit here and a bit there. We are not told that what consumers waste is a tiny fraction of what the private sector wastes.

In town and city centres shops and office blocks are ablaze with neon lights all night long. Too many activities that don’t need to be are now going on 24 hours-a-day, seven days-a-week.

Our mental health might well benefit from restoring peace, quiet and darkness to our nights, improving the quality of our sleep.

And there is terrible waste in production. The Supermarket giant Tesco last week revealed it generated almost 30,000 tonnes of food waste in the first six months of 2013. And that is just one of several supermarket chains.

They say that 68 per cent of salad sold in bags ends up in the bin. So why on earth do they stock so much? The amount of resources, including energy, that go into producing useless waste are shocking. Let us produce what is needed and then stop working and take a rest.

But in a system of capitalist competition the sensible planning of supply to meet need is impossible. Only socialist governments can make long-term plans to use resources most efficiently and reduce waste.