Terence Blacker: True driving force in energy debate is cash

Share
Related Topics

In the week of the first ever Green Britain Day, I was fortunate enough to hear an exchange which captured, in an admittedly microcosmic way, the realities behind the energy debate. At a planning committee in Norfolk, one of two energy companies hoping to put up groups of wind turbines near Diss was applying for permission to erect a 60-metre wind-measuring mast. A councillor pointed out to the team of TCI Renewables that another firm, Enertrag Ltd, had recently erected a mast nearby. Was it not possible for the two firms to share the data?

It was not. The companies were in competition with one another, the TCI man told the committee; for that reason, it would be impossible for them to co-operate.

Suddenly the profound cynicism behind all the warm words which both firms regularly emit – climate change, sustainability, the future of our planet and so on – was revealed. The reality was simpler and uglier. In their scramble to develop the countryside and grab public subsidies, the two energy companies preferred to double their carbon footprint, each erecting a giant mast, rather than risking losing a commercial advantage. The project was all about profit.

It is a worthwhile lesson to bear in mind on this, Green Britain Day: money is at the heart of the debate about future energy. Indeed, a row between two larger energy companies about this very day of conservation and awareness points up how idiotic and childish commercial competition can be.

Green Britain Day is the brainchild of EDF Energy, the firm which is one of the main sponsors of the London Olympics. The idea is not a bad one: a day in the year when people can get advice about recycling, or growing vegetables, when schools are involved in a "do something green campaign". Sport celebrities will be involved. There is a logo for the day: a green union jack.

EDF have released the PR line that seems to have become obligatory on these occasions. As an energy company, it has a responsibility to be at the heart of a solution to climate change. Green Britain Day is "an ongoing opportunity for Britain to lead the world in the fight against climate change".

Yet, strangely, other energy companies are less keen on this initiative. One, in fact, is spitting mad. Ecotricity, whose founder Dale Vincent also likes to present himself as an eco-saint has accused its rival of trying to "green itself up". What terrible sin has EDF committed? It stole Ecotricity's idea of a green union jack.

On his blog, an irate Vincent draws attention to the fact that EDF is French and that it includes nuclear power in its energy portfolio. He has seen the words "EDF CLIMATE CRIMINALS" sprayed across one of the green union jacks, and had found the graffiti so apt his design department had mocked it up for his website.

Here is another useful glimpse into what is really going on during this debate. Behind the energy companies' slick and relentless promotion of their own green ethics, there is a vicious, competitive scramble for cash. On Green Britain Day, no sector is less qualified to preach virtue and selflessness to the rest of us than the hard-eyed, profit-hungry firms who stand to gain most from climate change.

Morley archives reveal Gielgud's lust for life

The image of the bug-eyed punk icon Iggy Pop has taken a few knocks recently. First Iggy, who likes to show his wiry torso onstage, appeared in TV commercials for a motor insurance company. Now, with the release of Sheridan Morley's papers, it emerges that he was a favourite crush of Sir John Gielgud. "He takes his clothes off," the great actor excitedly told Dame Judi Dench. "I've got a couple of nice pics."

Morley was a critic, biographer and director who had a talent for winkling out embarrassing information about revered public figures. Vanessa Redgrave insisted on a pre-interview contract forbidding mention of politics or her family, and was rewarded by Morley's suggestion to her agent of another agreement, the first clause of which was that "she stops being boring, fatuous and pretentious".

With letters from Gore Vidal (enraged), Sir Alec Guinness (world-weary), the Duchess of York (self-pitying) and many others, the Morley archive, now at Kingston University, sounds like a treasure trove of bitchiness and gossip. A waspish little volume for the Christmas market must surely be on its way.

Dog of a day in the Osbourne household

An interesting little essay could be written about sentimentality, fame and attitudes towards animals as exemplified by the family of the slack-jawed former wild man of rock, Ozzy Osbourne.

As a lead singer, Ozzy's unique selling point was biting the heads off live doves and bats. He confessed at one point in his career that he had once shot his family's 17 cats. Now that the Osbournes are professional celebrities, he collects dogs. A regular feature of the reality show series set in their home was the sight of some luckless, under-exercised mutt defecating miserably on the carpet.

The family had 18 dogs, when last counted – or perhaps that should be 17. While they were watching Michael Jackson's memorial on television, Little Bit, a Pomeranian, was eaten by a coyote, its yelps drowned out by the sound of the TV. Ozzy is "devastated – she was his other woman", his daughter Kelly has twittered.

First Michael Jackson. Now Little Bit. How much grief can one family stand?

React Now

  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Project Implementation Executive

£18000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They work with major vehicle ma...

Recruitment Genius: Chiropractic Assistant

£16500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Chiropractic Assistant is needed in a ...

Recruitment Genius: Digital Account Executive - Midlands

£18000 - £26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They work with major vehicle ma...

Recruitment Genius: Web Developer

£28000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company provides coaching ...

Day In a Page

Read Next
With an eye for strategy: Stephen Fry’s General Melchett and Rowan Atkinson’s Edmund Blackadder  

What Cameron really needs is to turn this into a khaki election

Matthew Norman
An Italian policeman stands guard as migrants eat while waiting at the port of Lampedusa to board a ferry bound for Porto Empedocle in Sicily. Authorities on the Italian island of Lampedusa struggled to cope with a huge influx of newly-arrived migrants as aid organisations warned the Libya crisis means thousands more could be on their way  

Migrant boat disaster: EU must commit funds to stop many more dying

Alistair Dawber
NHS struggling to monitor the safety and efficacy of its services outsourced to private providers

Who's monitoring the outsourced NHS services?

A report finds that private firms are not being properly assessed for their quality of care
Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

The Tory MP said he did not want to stand again unless his party's manifesto ruled out a third runway. But he's doing so. Watch this space
How do Greek voters feel about Syriza's backtracking on its anti-austerity pledge?

How do Greeks feel about Syriza?

Five voters from different backgrounds tell us what they expect from Syriza's charismatic leader Alexis Tsipras
From Iraq to Libya and Syria: The wars that come back to haunt us

The wars that come back to haunt us

David Cameron should not escape blame for his role in conflicts that are still raging, argues Patrick Cockburn
Sam Baker and Lauren Laverne: Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

A new website is trying to declutter the internet to help busy women. Holly Williams meets the founders
Heston Blumenthal to cook up a spice odyssey for British astronaut manning the International Space Station

UK's Major Tum to blast off on a spice odyssey

Nothing but the best for British astronaut as chef Heston Blumenthal cooks up his rations
John Harrison's 'longitude' clock sets new record - 300 years on

‘Longitude’ clock sets new record - 300 years on

Greenwich horologists celebrate as it keeps to within a second of real time over a 100-day test
Fears in the US of being outgunned in the vital propaganda wars by Russia, China - and even Isis - have prompted a rethink on overseas broadcasters

Let the propaganda wars begin - again

'Accurate, objective, comprehensive': that was Voice of America's creed, but now its masters want it to promote US policy, reports Rupert Cornwell
Why Japan's incredible long-distance runners will never win the London Marathon

Japan's incredible long-distance runners

Every year, Japanese long-distance runners post some of the world's fastest times – yet, come next weekend, not a single elite competitor from the country will be at the London Marathon
Why does Tom Drury remain the greatest writer you've never heard of?

Tom Drury: The quiet American

His debut was considered one of the finest novels of the past 50 years, and he is every bit the equal of his contemporaries, Jonathan Franzen, Dave Eggers and David Foster Wallace
You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

Dave Hax's domestic tips are reminiscent of George Orwell's tea routine. The world might need revolution, but we like to sweat the small stuff, says DJ Taylor
Beige is back: The drab car colours of the 1970s are proving popular again

Beige to the future

Flares and flounce are back on catwalks but a revival in ’70s car paintjobs was a stack-heeled step too far – until now
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's dishes highlight the delicate essence of fresh cheeses

Bill Granger cooks with fresh cheeses

More delicate on the palate, milder, fresh cheeses can also be kinder to the waistline
Aston Villa vs Liverpool: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful,' says veteran Shay Given

Shay Given: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful'

The Villa keeper has been overlooked for a long time and has unhappy memories of the national stadium – but he is savouring his chance to play at Wembley
Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own - Michael Calvin

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own