Letters: Perspectives on a power crisis

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EU fuel limit will bring an energy gap

Recently released energy-supply statistics, from the Department for Energy and Climate Change, which show reduced energy output from renewables between 2009 and 2010, conveniently occurred in a year when overall electricity consumption fell by nearly 10 per cent, reflecting the economic situation. This, combined with a further self-imposed delay on nuclear plants and imminent new EU rules threatens our future energy supply.

Electricity demand will soon begin to increase again, especially as electric cars and further electrification of household heating and other sectors grows.

According to leaked minutes last year from the Office for Nuclear Development, Britain's new nuclear programme was already behind schedule before the delay of another six months to check safety at UK plants, post Fukushima. This will push the commissioning of the first new nuclear reactors back towards 2020.

Also, and perhaps of more immediate concern, the EU Large Combustion Plant Directive (LCPD) will force the UK to close over 12,000MW of ongoing coal and oil-fired power stations by 2016. This represents around 16 per cent of baseload and peakload UK generating capacity.

The problem with the directive for the UK is that in the last quarter of 2010 the UK increased its use of coal to generate electricity by 32 per cent, compared with the same quarter in 2009. Coal generation got us through a very cold period of high energy demand. The LCPD will close a third of UK coal generating capacity.

The Government must prepare to derogate from the LCPD, and to reassure those investors in a new nuclear programme that the policy to deliver a clear and streamlined timetable and planning regime is on track and a priority, irrespective of the recent comments by the Deputy Prime Minister in Mexico, which cast doubt on new nuclear build.

If these issues are not tackled as a matter of priority, then an energy crisis could overshadow the end of the Coalition's fixed term in 2015.

Tony Lodge, Research Fellow, Centre for Policy Studies, London SW1

Reasons for MOX plant troubles

Your article about the Sellafield MOX Plant (15 April), in which you cited Arthur D Little's work on the economic case for commissioning the plant, appears to suggest that there were major uncertainties with regard to the commercial market for MOX fuel at the time the licence to go live was granted in 2001.

This is not accurate. As part of the study of the economic case, prospective customers, including Japanese customers, were consulted in person and reliable evidence was gathered on both pricing levels and the likelihood of future orders.

It is a matter of fact that the Sellafield MOX Plant has suffered technical problems which were far worse than anyone in the industry was able to foresee at the time of commissioning, and substantial work is continuing to rectify these problems. It is this which is the key issue with regard to the economic case, not the prospective market for MOX fuel.

Rick Eagar, Director, Arthur D Little, London SE1

Selective anger over Bahrain

With reference to your front-page report "Bahrain's secret terror" (21 April), I am now anxiously waiting to hear the news that the "coalition", under the leadership of David Cameron, has issued a warning to the Bahrain and Saudi governments to cease attacking the peaceful demonstrators of Bahrain.

Should such a warning not be respected with immediate effect, and those detained illegally released, I would expect that a UN resolution can be engineered to give a mandate to commence air attacks on Bahraini and Saudi military and police installations to force the Bahrain ruling family out of office and out of the country.

Such air attacks will be easily supported from military bases in Cyprus, Turkey, Iraq and even Afghanistan, though this may require some refuelling. Both Israel and India may be persuaded to take on regional responsibilities and provide support for these military operations.

Democracy and free elections should not only be the newly acquired rights of the Libyans.

Gunter Straub, London NW3

Western states may feel constrained not to act without Arab support but surely their peoples are not constrained not to protest. We have scenes of state "security" officers killing their own citizens in Syria and Bahrain.

Where are the thousands demonstrating in Trafalgar Square with their SWP-supplied placards? Where are the local councils of Australia boycotting Bahrain? Or the churches divesting themselves of shares? And especially, where is the union of our academic elite calling for a boycott of Syrian academics?

These questions are not suggestions that criticism of Israel is anti-Jewish. No-one suggests that everything Israel does is right. But it should be clear to any unbiased observer that singling out Israel alone as a pariah because, for example, it refuses, without peace, to end its occupation of the West Bank, is the product of an underlying, and unrecognised racism.

Had Gadyad, Leatherhead, Surrey

The law shields errant celebrities

With an increasing number of celebrity philanderers applying for injunctions to protect their identities from being revealed it won't be long before the courts have little time left to deal with matters of real importance.

In one recent case a judge decreed that the injunction was granted in order to protect the celebrity adulterer's children. Isn't it a pity that these high-profile celebrities can't show as much concern for their children (and their wives) before they embark on their sordid affairs?

Protecting the rich and famous from the consequences of their amoral behaviour is fast becoming a growth industry, which is good news for the lawyers who are only too happy to trouser obscene amounts of cash for persuading judges to accede to their clients' requests for anonymity.

What these injunctions prove is that as long as one has the money to buy the services of expensive lawyers, it is possible, thanks to the English judicial system, to buy one's way out of trouble and avoid the consequences of one's actions. There most certainly is one law for the rich and another for the poor.

Robert Readman, Bournemouth, Dorset

Long tradition of Scottish racism

It has taken death threats to Neil Lennon and other Celtic players and supporters to break the silence that usually hides Scotland's sectarian problem.

In 2006 when Uefa first investigated Rangers for sectarian singing they concluded that they could not punish the club as there was a peculiar acceptance of sectarianism in Scotland! Cue Much indignation from the Scottish establishment, which couldn't see ourselves as others see us.

In my experience most sectarianism in our country could be better described as anti-Irish racism, and it has been around for a long time. The high-water mark came in the years between the world wars when, adopting Whitehall's agenda, the Church of Scotland annually approved committee reports demanding the repatriation of the racially inferior RC Irish as they threatened the purity of the Scots race.

Scots RCs escaped this proposed ethnic cleansing, as did Irish Protestants, whom one church report described thus: "Nor is there any complaint of the presence of an Orange population in Scotland. They are of the same race as ourselves and of the same Faith, and are readily assimilated to the Scottish population."

This Orange agenda was preached from pulpits for many decades, indoctrinating the Protestant community. The church showed little remorse for its part in dividing society until pressed in 2002, when it tersely admitted that its policies showing Irish immigrants in the worst possible light was "racism akin to the 'rivers of blood' speech of Enoch Powell in the 1960s".

People like me who complain of anti-Irish racism – such as racist singing by Rangers fans – to the authorities are treated to platitudes about football sectarianism, which studiously ignore the word "racist".

As this residual racist problem was initially caused by the Church of Scotland and the Government they should fix it and not stand on the sidelines wringing their hands.

Tom Minogue, Dunfermline

Why politicians are so bad

Andreas Whittam Smith has only scratched at revealing the causes of the low quality of politicians that we get (Opinion, 14 April). I suggest that there are two issues that prevent the creation of a competent and trustworthy governing body.

First, we in the UK confuse the role of a Member of Parliament or local councillor. On the one hand, we expect them to be some sort of social worker and ombudsman (at best some sort of Tribune of the People) – difficult, demanding, thankless and, for many, irksome jobs; worse if one is not trained to do them.

On the other hand, we expect them to be disinterested, competent, far-seeing rulers. These are two distinct roles and few are likely to have the very different attributes, types of intelligence or perspective to do either well, let alone both.

Second, it is not just Mr Whittam Smith's "small pool of just 300 or so people" who select potential MPs. It is anyone who has the energy and interest to take part in constituency party selection procedures, at either constituency or ward/division level. I have seen such procedural events attended by as few as 10 people – and then the other thousands in the constituency have the cheek to bemoan the selection of utterly rubbish candidates from either or any party.

The price of freedom might be eternal vigilance but the price of getting competent rulers or effective representatives is eternal engagement in the basic selection procedures. Then, perhaps, we could sort out two distinct job descriptions and separate the jobs, at national, county, town and parish levels.

Robert J Jones, Chelmsford, Essex

Bikes squeezed off the roads

Your report on cyclist fatalities (15 April) failed to mention the key cause of these tragedies: the disastrous narrowing of many thousands of London roads and junctions by Transport for London under Ken Livingstone – part of the largest road change programme of any western city.

The "one-laneing" of London's network of boulevards means trucks and buses pass much closer to cyclists than before, greatly increasing the risk of collisions.

Most recently, the narrowing of Pall Mall, one of the last remaining open boulevards in the capital, has been disastrous for cyclist safety. Trucks pass cyclists with inches to spare. Many bikes now use the pavement.

No wonder most cyclists are killed in Camden and Westminster, compared with other boroughs; it is these councils which have narrowed the roads more than any others in the capital. No other city in Europe has strangled its roads the way London has done, not even the "green" cities of Scandinavia. Next year, the volumes of traffic during the 2012 Games will be lethal for the cyclist.

Marcus Gibson, London W1

I'm a sensible, law-abiding motorist who keeps to speed limits, doesn't drive after drinking alcohol, somehow manages to complete journeys without feeling the need to clamp my mobile phone to my ear and takes care around other road users. So I would feel somewhat aggrieved to be lumped in with the idiot drivers who do commit those offences, particularly given the danger they present to others.

I'm also a sensible, law-abiding cyclist who obeys red lights, doesn't cycle the wrong way down one-way streets and doesn't cycle on pavements. So I'm baffled why I appear to be as culpable as the idiot cyclists who do commit those offences.

This is particularly galling given that the accident statistics show clearly that, compared with law-breaking car drivers, cyclists committing traffic offences are very unlikely to harm others.

Simon Robinson, Lindfield, West Sussex

Too many people for the land

Your article "Why Britain's taste for cheap food is killing Brazil's other wilderness" (11 April) raises the dilemma the world faces in trying to conserve wild areas in the face of growing human pressure. The Amazon rainforest is apparently receiving better protection, but as a result another part of Brazil is suffering great damage, as demand for land for growing crops switches from one area to another. Ultimately all conservation efforts, whether in Britain or the wider world, will be futile if human demands expand without end.

Relentless pressure on the world's limited land area will continue until such time as world population is stabilised, and it becomes generally understood that continuous economic growth, and thus ever-increasing use of resources, is unsustainable.

World leaders need to turn their attention urgently as to how to share out resources more fairly both within and between nations, and how to prevent dangerous further growth in population. Compared with these problems, the present economic crisis is a minor irritant.

L Warwick-Haller, Botley, Hampshire

IMF needs a new deal

David Prosser's commentary "Gordon Brown could be exactly the leader that IMF needs" (15 April) misses the point with regard to Brown's potential candidacy for the next IMF managing director. The "gentleman's agreement" made at the end of the Second World War that European governments could select the head of the IMF, so long as the US got to choose the World Bank boss, is outdated and illegitimate.

An April report from 21 civil society organisations, Heading For the Right Choice? calls for a transparent, fair, merit-based process focused on selecting the best candidate available; while ensuring the legitimacy gained from the backing of a majority of countries as well as IMF voting shares. This last point is crucial – the unfair distribution of voting rights at the IMF gives rich countries a permanent majority. If they try again to impose their candidate on the rest of the world, the legitimacy and effectiveness of the IMF will continue to be tarnished.

Jesse Griffiths, Coordinator, The Bretton Woods Project, London EC1

This is not the Church I know

How come the Church of England your writers see is so very different from the one I know (Monday Essay, 18 April)?

Our church is always open, and is familiar to lots of people in the community. Within the past 12 months I have attended a midnight service written and run by youths on a sleepover, weekly youth meetings with praise and bible study in the churchyard and a packed holiday club for primary children run by a team of about 30 volunteers - half of them teenagers.

And my hoody-wearing, ps3 playing 17-year-old son takes an active part in CU at school and demands to be delivered to Soul Survivor, a Christian festival with a few (25,000) other teenagers that happens every summer.

Romy Dunn, York

Border dispute

Brian Hughes (letter, 19 April) is wrong about his geography. Why would Manchester United be known as "Salford United" when the club do not play in Salford?. The club's ground, Old Trafford, is not in Manchester, as he suggests, but lies within the Metropolitan Borough of Trafford. The "hard to find" border which he mentions is the border between Manchester and Trafford. The border between Manchester and Salford is very easy to find: it is the river Irwell.

Ed Glinert, Stretford, Greater Manchester

Voters' verdict

Ed Miliband is absolutely right to point out that the referendum on the system of voting for parliamentary candidates is not a referendum on Nick Clegg (18 April). What a shame that he thinks that local elections are not an opportunity to vote for the local party that might best deliver local services but a massive opinion poll on the performance of the current Government.

Cllr Rob Field, Maidstone, Kent

All welcome

The Archbishop of York (21 April) says that globally there are more refugees than ever, protection should be provided to "all those" escaping "conflict situations" and "human rights violations", and that this moral obligation falls especially on Britain. Could there ever be any numerical or practical limit whatever to this religious requirement?

Jason Robertson, Sheringham, Norfolk

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