Letters: Don’t give up on green energy

These letters are published in the print edition of The Independent, 7 June, 2013

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Contrary to your article “Plan to make the UK’s electricity supply green is defeated in the Commons” (5 June), the Energy Bill will make the UK’s electricity supply green.

Clean energy investors should take huge confidence from the overwhelming majority of MPs – 396 in favour, eight against – who voted on Tuesday to complete the Commons passage of the Energy Bill. Cross-party consensus behind our reforms to the electricity market is strong.

The Bill will provide the certainty investors need. Long-term contracts for low-carbon will enable renewables, nuclear and carbon capture and storage to compete against conventional power stations, and they will be backed by our tripling in support for clean energy by 2020.

There are clearly differing views on setting a 2030 decarbonisation target for the power sector. There is logic to legislating now to enable us to set a target range in 2016, once we’ve decided the economy-wide emission reductions that will have to be achieved by 2030, so I am pleased that the House chose to support that position.

In any case, we’re already bound by law to cut emissions across the whole UK economy by 50 per cent by 2025, and the Energy Bill will bring about substantial decarbonisation of the power sector as part of that.

Crucially, it will also help us keep the lights on and people’s bills down.

Edward Davey, Secretary of State, Department of Energy and Climate Change, London SW1

Although a proposal to decarbonise the UK’s power sector was narrowly defeated in the House of Commons, this crucial issue is far from over.

Many of the UK’s top businesses are calling for a target for cleaning up our energy system, because it would give them the confidence to invest in Britain’s huge renewable energy resources, creating thousands of new jobs and business opportunities.  It would also wean the nation off increasingly costly fossil fuels and ensure the UK played a leading role in tackling climate change.

The House of Lords is due to discuss the Energy Bill later this month. Peers must put the interests of households, the economy and environment first and vote for clean energy.

Andy Atkins, Executive Director, Friends of the Earth, London N1

The direction of current government energy policy is quite clear. The Energy Bill going through Parliament has been stripped of obligations to meet hard carbon-emission targets, wind farms will soon be almost impossible in rural areas, wasting wind resources and losing income to enterprising farmers, and a harsh EU solar trade control on cheaper Chinese solar energy equipment also has the effect of shoving up renewable prices.

This will all have the desirable political effect (from the point of view of mending Cameron’s fences with the disaffected red faces on his back benches) of annoying Liberal Democrats and Greens. But it also (further) rigs the accounting rules of energy policy in favour of shale gas and nuclear energy.

Should we wonder, in the light of The Independent’s excellent attempts to expose the range of corporate lobbying, what negotiations behind the scenes were involved? But at least this fiasco reminds one how far from neutral, and how highly politicised, are all the accounting rules around energy policy, claimed energy reserves and energy prices.

Dr Chris Farrands, Nottingham

Battles rage over the middle lane

Driving while using a phone, tailgating and not wearing a seatbelt are all habits which pose a clear risk to other road users and should be punished effectively. Driving in the middle lane of a motorway, however, not only poses no danger to others, but is something we should all do as standard (“Highway safety drive – or just the latest ministerial car crash?”, 6 June).

The safest place for drivers who are moving steadily at moderate speed, near the speed limit, is the middle lane. Your vehicle is not in the way of cars that want to pass you, who can use the right lane, and not in the way of vehicles entering and exiting the motorway, who need the left lane. Vehicles merging on to the motorway from slip roads need large gaps to come up to motorway speed safely, and should be left in possession of the left lane as much as possible. This would also greatly reduce danger for anyone forced to stop on the verge with car trouble.

Left lane for coming on and off, centre lane for cruising, and right lane for passing. Surely that is perfectly simple, clear and safe?

Ellen Purton, Twickenham, Middlesex

If the police are to begin issuing tickets to so-called “middle lane hoggers”, how will such a category be defined? Where there is a lot of traffic in the nearside lane moving at 60mph and less, I frequently drive at 70mph in the middle lane. It seems to incur the displeasure of many motorists, who flash their lights behind me.

But my attitude is that if they must insist on breaking the law, then there is a perfectly good outside lane which they can use for the purpose. Many of those who complain ad nauseam about middle-lane users, in reality have an expectation of there being not one but two lanes in which they have an entitlement to exceed the speed limit.

Chris Sexton, Crowthorne, Berkshire

One of the more dangerous situations caused by motorway middle-lane hogging is where one heavy lorry tries to overtake a second at a very low speed differential. Sometimes this takes several miles, during which time all faster traffic is limited to the single outside lane.

This causes very long queues of traffic to build up in the outside lane, often travelling too close together. That means that slightly slower light-weight traffic either has to travel at the slow speed of the heavy lorries or attempt to push into the already busy outside lane in order to make progress. These lane changing manoeuvres can easily be misjudged, leading to the potential for accidents.

Frank Shackleton, Rochdale, Lancashire

 Middle-lane hogs are indeed a nuisance, but a far greater menace are slow-lane snoozers – drivers of lorries in the slow lane who are oblivious to what is happening around them, and who stubbornly refuse to slow down to allow overtaking lorries to pass quickly.

The result? Long tail-backs in the fast lane of dual carriageways. The wise solution here is not to encourage the overtaking lorry to drive faster, but for the lorry being overtaken to slow down, just a little bit – or be fined.

Dennis Sherwood, Exton, Rutland

Reducing the risk of rape

In the recent correspondence about rape there seems to be a gender divide, which I’d like to redress.

The men don’t appear to me to be suggesting that rape is other than a heinous crime; they merely point out that women can take steps to reduce their risk. I agree.

Anyone is entitled to dress as they please. But if someone deliberately sets out to become incapably drunk (as some do) they are increasing the likelihood that ill will befall them, either criminally or accidentally. Whether they are raped, robbed or hit by a bus, they will be understandably shocked. But they are not entitled to be surprised.

There may be satisfaction to be derived from merely apportioning blame, but it is more constructive to consider how potential victims can make themselves safer. Saying that young women do not owe themselves a duty of care is demeaning to them and  increases the chance of their coming to harm.

Susan Alexander, Frampton Cotterell, South Gloucestershire

Mystery spending on free schools

If, as is expected, the education budget is cut by £1bn in the next spending review, then one would think that the level of spending on free schools and academies would be of particular interest to parents and the public.

Not so, according to the DfE, as Mr Gove’s department has consistently refused to divulge the spending in these areas, citing that the “balance of public interest falls in favour of the maintenance of an exemption in relation to the information relating to this particular request”.

I first asked for this information in February. One wonders why the full financial implications of these policies have still to be revealed.

Simon G Gosden, Rayleigh, Essex

Government by celebrities

If you’re the new social mobility tsar, James Caan, picked by the Government to promote opportunities for less affluent young people, don’t go on the record telling parents not to help their kids with jobs after giving your daughters top roles in your investment company and on the board of your foundation (report, 5 June).

I don’t know who has the least amount of common sense: Caan for such double standards or Nick Clegg for appointing someone without researching the facts. Isn’t it time for the Government to reduce its reliance on self-promoting celebrities?

Daniel Todaro, Newbury, Berkshire

Fair warning

Reading Steve Richards’ report on the Labour Party’s policy contortions on public expenditure (6 June), I could not help concluding that the Labour leadership is getting its betrayal in first. Again. So much for the rhetoric about “savage” Coalition cuts. At least voters will know where the party stands on polling day. Next time, we will be prepared for disappointment with a Labour government from day one.

Paul Wilder, London SE11

Secret shame

David Ridge states that he has never seen anyone buy a “lads’ mag” in his daily visits to his newsagents (Letters, 6 June). That is because buyers smuggle such unedifying publications to the counter inside other journals. Similarly, in post-Hillsborough Liverpool, the ashamed few who still purchase The Sun newspaper do so by hiding their copy of Mr Murdoch’s masterpiece inside Naked Over 40s or the like.

Colin Burke, Manchester

Not for eating

It is irresponsible of Mark Hix (1 June), to suggest catching freshwater crayfish from a local river or stream, when the native white clawed crayfish is an endangered species, and it is illegal to catch or handle them without a licence from Natural England.

Steve Bartlett, Addlestone, Surrey

Get a new slogan

Advice to Tory PR office: two mantras have lost their impact and should be downgraded to hackneyed. They are “The mess we inherited” and “Hard-working people”.

Brian Mayes, Edinburgh

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