Letter: Coal crisis: market fallacies, short-term subsidies, energy policy

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The Independent Online
Sir: So, the Trade and Industry Select Committee has found an aperture through which the Government may hope to escape the wreckage of the coal mines debacle ('Coal is a bright beacon of Commons power', 26 January).

We now await publication of the first energy policy White Paper in 25 years. Shortly before its demise, the Department of Energy documented the potential for a 30 per cent improvement in the energy efficiency of the British economy if industry made investments with a five-year pay-back. Might we expect some deliberate attempt to encourage industry to realise these lucrative savings?

Work published last month by the Department of Trade confirms the availability of sufficient renewable energy (such as wind power) to provide more than a quarter of Britain's electricity at competitive costs. What we need are some coherent policies to harness this vast and relatively benign indigenous resource.

The experience of the abortive attempt at nuclear privatisation caused Lord Lawson to lament being 'led astray' over the 'phoney economics of nuclear power'. Withdrawal of support from this obsolete leviathan is long overdue.

Despite hearing detailed evidence confirming the high cost of nuclear power, and despite Mr Heseltine's recent acknowledgement to Parliament that the oldest stations are 'old and unsafe' the Select Committee seems to acquiesce to nuclear power surviving intact. The signs are that the White Paper will similarly neglect the promise of energy efficiency and renewables when it is published next month.

The justifiable reprieve of some of Europe's most productive coal mines should be met with only muted applause. The real issues in the British energy debate look set to remain undisturbed for another 25 years.



Lewes, East Sussex