Kingsnorth exposes a government energy strategy in disarray. One week the Prime Minister commits the UK to generating around 40 per cent of its electricity from renewables, the next his Business Secretary sings the praises of the most carbon-intensive form of power generation around. We can only hope that John Hutton's words were an attempt to stake out his territory in the Cabinet, not a wider signal of
There is a serious split in the Government over this issue. The disagreement centres on a technical detail but adds to a growing sense that the only way this problem can be properly dealt with is for the entire Cabinet to take a fresh look at its entire coal strategy. Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) technology is still many years away, and to allow unabated plants before it is ready would fatally undermine our chances of cutting emissions. Kingsnorth alone would emit more than eight million tonnes of CO2 every year until CCS can be implemented. If Gordon Brown fails to get a grip on this problem, we could be landed with a new generation of massive carbon albatrosses.
But there is a solution. If the Government is so eager to escape the messy implications of a public inquiry, it should stick to its word. John Hutton recently announced that the UK has the capacity to generate a massive 33GW of renewable electricity from offshore wind turbines alone in the next 10 years or so, easily negating the need for new coal. With the best renewable energy resources in the whole of Europe, we should be leading the pack when it comes to clean energy.
Instead of betting the ranch on an unproven technology with massive risks, the Government should start implementing the solutions that are staring it in the face.
John Sauven is an executive director of GreenpeaceReuse content