Most informed people support clean air and net zero, albeit within a reasonable timescale. However, there is a vocal minority that would have us stop gas exploration and even gas production right now (letters, March 2). Even though currently, our renewables can supply only a fraction of our energy needs.
Sensibly, we need a carefully-managed transition from our fossil-fuel economy to one with sufficient renewables or new technologies to maintain our way of life – without weakening UK industry or driving us into penury.
Like it or not, net zero will not come easy. Take the cost of changing to electric cars and our homes to heat pumps. You would need twice as much electricity as we use now.
That requires more generating capacity – new power stations – as well as upgrading the national grid and the supplies to most homes.
Apart from the £billions in cost, it has been estimated that between now and 2050, we will need 40,000 additional electricians. Currently, we have 38,000.
Then there’s the inconvenient fact that modernising the grid will require more copper than has been produced in the history of the modern world. More mines, more processing, more greenhouse gasses.
So apart from the cost, even if that were acceptable, it’s clear that scaling up to meet the net zero target will take considerable time.
So, what are the options for a smooth transition to net zero? Are we expected to turn off the gas and take cold baths? Not many would subscribe to that.
Nuclear? They have been working on Hinkley Point for at least 15 years, and there is still no end in sight. In fact, the whole idea that nuclear power is safe and cheap is an oxymoron. Safe, as in Three Mile Island, Fukushima and Chernobyl?
When Chernobyl has devastated 800 square miles of land, more or less the equivalent of Somerset?
Cheap? We still have to pay the bill to clean up the nuclear waste from the first generation of reactors.
Wind power? People object to onshore wind farms, and offshore ones are costly. Then again, the wind does not blow on demand.
Solar? We have barely seen the sun around here since November, and they really are a blot on the landscape.
Even the USA, that prodigious energy consumer and great polluter, seems to have a better grip on reality than our local protesters.
President Biden (who buys into net zero) is pumping $billions into new technology (batteries, hydrogen, carbon capture) to speed up the transition. They put a man on the Moon; why can’t they pull it off?
But the president is not prepared to sacrifice either US industry or the security of his people on the altar of sanctimonious naivety – especially when China continues to build its economy and military strength on the back of new coal-fired power stations.
Meanwhile, what do we have here in the UK – energy prices double that of the US. How can JCB, Rolls-Royce and Tata compete globally with that burden?
We have people demanding higher wages because they can’t afford to keep their homes warm – and you cannot blame them. In short, we have price inflation because we do not produce enough of our own energy.
While the anti-fracking brigade beat their drums, we are left sitting on a 50-year natural gas supply (plus more of coal).
I say “our own” pointedly because the gas belongs to us, the people. Despite what the protesters would have us believe – “It won’t bring our fuel bills down” – the government can control the price and, like the US, we could have energy at half the price. Just think what that would do for economic growth and cold hands.
It is ironic then that INEOS, who pumped £50m into shale gas exploration, having been told fracking was OFF by Boris, ON by Liz and then OFF by Rishi, has given up.
Well, not quite! They are building five new LNG tankers to carry fracked gas from the USA to their chemical works in Scotland and supply the grid. This undoubtedly keeps those who don’t want to see fracking near them happy.
Meanwhile, our American friends are laughing all the way to the bank.
Longdene House, Haslemere