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Tuesday 4 May 2010
Letters: Nuclear power
No need for nuclear power
Recent political reviews of energy policy have tried to suggest that there are no practical alternatives to the risks of new nuclear reactors – that unless we start on new nuclear construction now, the lights will start to go out by 2015.
The real situation is more complex: although some 25GW of coal and nuclear is due to come offline by around 2030, the generation gap by 2015 identified in some recent policy papers is not supported by evidence, in that it assumes that no new generation capacity of any kind will be built over the next five years.
In fact more non-nuclear generation is already under construction and will come on-line by 2015 than is scheduled to go off-line. A further 1GW of new capacity beyond 2015 is being planned, permitted or constructed. Although this is predominantly gas- fired, the International Energy Agency has made it clear that gas is available in an increasingly global market to deliver reliable and affordable access for the UK.
Also, as National Grid has made clear, domestic demand for natural gas could be reduced significantly, and as anaerobic digestion biogas starts to come on-line, this will leave more gas capacity for the power sector (National Grid concludes that we can supply up to 18 per cent of UK gas demand from waste digestion).
However, in terms of gas supply, the real issue is the lack of storage capacity, making us susceptible to market manipulation and threatened interruptions.
The mid-term picture for nuclear power looks equally problematic. Three major new energy scenarios, from the European Climate Foundation, Price- Waterhouse Coopers (backed by the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research), and the European Renewable Energy Council, conclude that the EU could obtain both its electricity and even its total energy, from renewables by 2050 – with no nuclear power, and without significant extra costs. Indeed it could be cheaper long term – after all there would be no fuel costs. Wind power is already the cheapest source on the grid in some US states, and it, and the other renewables, will get cheaper still as technology develops.
There are viable and pragmatic energy futures: where offshore wind, waves, tides, biomass and photovoltaics collectively offer the potential to harness enormous energy resources. Other energy futures include: large-scale networks for energy distribution; radical market innovations from energy supply to energy services, comprehensive energy efficiency, and the restructuring of our built environment to provide for more distributed and integrated energy systems.
The fact is, we are approaching an energy future of rich and bewildering choice, where a variety of radically different options present technically and economically viable alternatives – a future where the nuclear option is the dearest and riskiest of gambles.
Dr Paul Dorfman
Warwick Business School
Emeritus Professor, Energy and Environment, The Open University
Professor Tom Burke
Founding Director, E3G; Visiting Professor at Imperial and University Colleges
Professor Andy Stirling
University of Sussex
Professor of Energy Policy
University of Greenwich
Professor of Science Studies and Research Director of the Centre for the Study of Environmental Change, University of Lancaster
And 24 others
Michael McCarthy says Nuclear Power produces "virtually no CO2" ("Climate change back on election agenda", 27 April ).
Studies estimate complete lifecycle CO2 emissions at between 66 and 130 grams of CO2 per kilowatt hour generated. Compare this with natural gas at 443, coal 755-1050 and wind at 10-37.
These figures also assume a nuclear power plant operating for 40 years at 85 per cent capacity. No nuclear reactor in the world has ever operated past 35 years and none has come near to an average 85 per cent capacity factor. In some cases this figure has been more like 6 per cent.
As countries around the world pin their hopes on nuclear power, uranium abundance falls, decreasing its quality and increasing nuclear power's CO2 emissions. In a few decades' time nuclear power will be producing the same amount of CO2 as a gas-fired power station does today.
Welcome back to the Stupid Party
The extent to which David Cameron has successfully "decontaminated the Tory brand" and removed the label of the "nasty party" is debatable. However, the party's "populist" (superficially attractive but ill thought-through) policies in so many areas such as elected police commissioners, political alignment in the EU and most dangerously a pre-Keynesian 1930s classical approach to macro economics, ensure it has re-earned the more historic label of "the stupid party".
In the pre-ideology days before Thatcherism it was a label worn proudly by Conservatives. In 2010 it is not one that the country can afford in government. As John Stuart Mill said so long ago: "Although it is not true that all conservatives are stupid people, it is true that most stupid people are conservative."
With less than a week to go, it seems that the British electorate has allowed itself to be seduced into believing that the Conservative Party under David Cameron's convivial leadership is ripe for government.
The Conservative Party of 2010 exists for the same purpose as it has always existed: to promote the interests of the wealthy and powerful at the expense of those without wealth and power. Every single positive measure that has been of any real benefit to the majority of working people in Britain for the past 100 or more years has been opposed by the Tories.
From the Factory Acts of the 19th century to prevent child labour, through to the introduction of the welfare state, the introduction of equal pay for men and women and right up to the recent introduction of a minimum wage, all of these positive measures have been opposed by the Tories. That such a large section of the electorate has come to believe that the Tories have anyone's interests at heart other than their own and those of their wealthy benefactors is utterly depressing.
There is much to criticise about Labour's record in office and the Lib Dems are a bit of a quaint diversion and an unknown quantity, but electoral success for either of them is far favourable to waking up to a Tory victory on Friday morning. This country deserves better than a government formed by aristocrats for the benefit of aristocrats.
There is a question that has not yet been put to David Cameron. If the Conservatives increase their number of MPs but still have insufficient to form a government, and should there be MPs from UKIP or the BNP, would the Conservatives look to them for support to form a government?
In the light of the Conservatives' record in Europe, this is a question that needs an answer.
I know big business want the Conservatives in power, but where do we go without big business? They pay for the country anyway. Give big business what they need, for goodness sake and let's get the country going and out of the depression. At this juncture we don't have the luxury of any other choice.
C Bruce Arnot
Cameron, the new de Gaulle
Bruce Anderson favourably compares his inamorato to a famous tall Frenchman ("Cameron could be our de Gaulle", 3 May).
He must realise that de Gaulle's fundamental achievement was to re-establish his country's independence from foreign control: he ordered the closing of all US military bases in France and left Nato. Everything else he achieved stemmed from those two courageous and perceptive actions. He was also I believe, a fan of what is now the EU.
I don't see Cameron in that mould, nor do I believe that the love affair would survive if he were.
Walsham le Willows, Suffolk
Bruce Anderson describes David Cameron as having "spent the last 20 years using his considerable intellect to clarify issues and solve problems". He is in fact that depressing modern phenomenon, a career political apparatchik, whose record includes being adviser to Norman Lamont at the time of the ERM debacle, and his only experience outside Westminster was as a PR consultant.
Bruce Anderson writes that Cameron "springs from the hard-working, public-serving upper-middle class, not from some secretive hereditary caste cut off from the rest of society". His next sentence: "His background is also admirably balanced between country and city. He is equally at home in London and in the depth of the countryside."
This must be to remind us that he has homes in both. Indeed, famously, he does not always know how many properties he owns. Once we remember that, we can take the rest of Anderson's eulogy for the joke it is.
Fr Patrick Morrow
Body language we cannot read
I take issue with the pseudo-expert opinion on body language being trotted out about the various party leaders by the television news channels in the aftermath of "Bigotgate"
People who are visually impaired quite often do not reflect sincerity or glee in their eyes when they smile (for obvious reasons). To criticise Gordon Brown on that account is as ridiculous as accusing Stevie Wonder of making poor eye contact. If we cannot be tolerant and understanding about these issues, what hope is there for people who are different or disabled in all sorts of ways?
Close-up shots of Sarah Brown looking a bit distracted cannot be interpreted as anguish about her husband's situation. She could have been wondering if she had locked the back door before leaving on her hectic pre-election rounds. If we could infer thought from visual expression there would be no successful suicide bombings and many people would be dismissed from their jobs.
More generally, there seems to be a confusion of presentation with personality and a hypocrisy on all our parts about the dreadful things we may say about people (that we wouldn't want them to hear or be hurt by) but which are part of how we manage the way we portray ourselves in different situations. Ironically, greater success in presentation implies greater skill in pretending, and may actually reflect a higher lack of honesty.
Clinical Psychologist, Cheshire
The support teachers need
While all must be glad that Peter Harvey's desperate action did not result in tragedy ("Union issues mental health alert after teacher's attack", 1 May), there cannot be a teacher in any type of school who hasn't struggled with a difficult class.
The most difficult, in my experience, tend to be large classes of pupils of average ability who find academic subjects a challenge but who are quite bright enough to cause concerted disruption.
By contrast, classes of pupils with real difficulties are small and, crucially, one or more pupils will be statemented and therefore allocated a learning support assistant. She can help her pupil and maybe others with the lesson, thereby keeping concentration going and preventing incipient disruption. Having another adult in the room is invaluable also if a pupil makes an allegation of misconduct on the part of the teacher, as she will have witnessed any alleged incident.
Teachers should be able to ask for this support in any class they know is becoming a problem. I think that everyone who wishes to become a teacher should spend a year as a learning support assistant or classroom assistant before starting their training, thereby providing the system with the (wo)man-power and ensuring that aspiring teachers get a true picture of what the profession entails.
From dole queue to fruit orchard
Mr Cameron has promised to take benefits from individuals on the dole who refuse to take up a job offer for work they can perform. He also promises a cap on immigrant workers, many of whom do seasonal agricultural work. Is it possible that Mr Cameron is going to put those on the dole to work in the orchards and fields?
This would be an interesting social experiment, as the farmers are used to employing foreign workers happy to work for low pay in harsh conditions. They will be replaced with workers unused to work under any conditions. Expect increases in price for your UK-grown fruit and vegetables this year.
George D Lewis
Philip Hensher (3 May) writes: "Why can't James Bond's Miss Moneypenny be black?" I would go one step further and ask why James Bond can't be black. As I type this, I am imagining Adrian Lester in the role; the kind of suave performance he puts in for Hustle would suit Bond perfectly.
Get out and vote
I hope Gillian Duffy will reconsider her decision not to vote on Thursday. First, she might heap coals of fire on Gordon Brown's head. Second, she'd show she was aware that it's those who don't vote who will be most to blame for whatever ensues.
Instead of demonstrating hubris in response to IMF and EU austerity measures, Greeks should be out on the streets of Athens celebrating their rescue from monetary nemesis.
Perspectives on markets
Tax the casino capitalists
Both David Cameron and Gordon Brown have nailed their political colours to the mast. They agree that any person who is currently getting public money, and who refuses to contribute to the economy, should lose access to public funds. I like the policy, but it is targeted at the wrong people.
Casino capitalists contribute nothing of value to our economy. Speculators trade shares worth more than the global economy every single day. There is an army of investment brokers doing no productive work whatsoever and we are now supporting them through a massive public subsidy. Let's target them instead of cutting public (or private) sector jobs. Not only will this be much more fun, it makes more economic sense and will rapidly reduce government debts.
Make the investment banking industry an offer it would be unwise to refuse: invest in manufacturing capacity or pay off global debts.
Employees who participate in a share incentive plan normally have to wait three years before they can receive benefits from their shareholding without paying any tax. There is also a cap of £3,000 per year on this benefit. Let's level the playing field and apply this to investment banking. If a broker suggests a speculative investment (including currency speculation) in excess of £3,000 value, and the purchase is held for less than three years, the broker (like the employee) must pay a 20 per cent tax on the value of the transaction.
Targeting brokers, like targeting drug dealers, makes sense. Better to punish the supplier than the addict.
Dr Rory Ridley-Duff
Sheffield Business School
Charlatan 'industry' destroys savings
The Goldman Sachs hearings raise a question that throughout the financial upheavals of recent years I have been seeking an answer to.
I understand how a bank can make a profit by charging interest on a loan. The person taking out the loan has to work to make money to pay the bank.
However, when the bank is using an "instrument" of some gambling kind, the deal appears to involve betting that something will go up or down in value. The bank gains if it has bet in the right direction. As any gamble involves a winner and a loser, if the bank bets right, someone must have to pay up. The gain for the bank is solely at the expense of some other shareholding body. A billion dollar profit for a bank in this area must be shown up elsewhere as a loss of a billion dollars. How does this gambling process "make" any money? If it doesn't, why do we allow this charlatan "industry" to exist at all?
They cream off vast sums from pension-fund holdings (where I assume most of their "profits" come from) and claim ludicrous bonuses, and then tell us that they will go elsewhere if we don't let them get paid this much to destroy the value of our savings.
Northallerton, North Yorkshire
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