Rupert Matthews is a freelance writer and is currently one of the MEP candidates for the Conservative Party in the East Midlands Region.
September opened with the EU performing one of its increasingly cringe-making displays of hypocrisy. As with so much about the EU, this latest examples springs from the willingness of the EU to indulge in wishful thinking, and then to fall for its own spin.
The EU held a Summit in Brussels to discuss the Russian invasion of Georgia. As ever it was preceded by firm declarations of intent by those ministers filing in to the meeting. And when it ended, Nicolas Sarkozy stepped up to tell the assembled Press that “We unambiguously condemn Russia’s disproportionate reaction, and we are conscious of our responsibility to maintain dialogue with our Russian neighbours.”
But what was the EU going to do about it? Well, not much. They suspended talks about expanded trade ties with Russia until such time as Russian troops withdrew from Georgia. They did not, you notice, cancel the talks but merely suspended them. It could have been worse. France and Germany at first did not want to take even this action, but were pushed into it by the Eastern member states that can feel he hot breath of the Russian bear on their necks.
The EU’s feeble action is, of course, due to its reliance on Russian gas for our energy needs. And that is due to a monumental piece of wishful thinking. For the past ten years the energy policy of the EU (and so of Britain) has been based on the idea that renewable sources – such as wind farms and solar panels – backed up by gas-fired power stations could provide the stable, secure power generation that we all need.
So long as Russia was quiescent that policy had a veneer of practicality. The gas supply could be depended upon to take up the slack when the wind stopped blowing and clouds covered the sun. Our leaders allowed themselves to believe that post-Soviet Russia would be a very different sort of a country to the old USSR. If they had even a passing knowledge of history they would have known that the Soviet Union behaved very much like old Tsarist Russia when it came to foreign policy. The post-Soviet lull was more to do with Russia’s economic problems than with any real change of Russian aims and ambitions. Now the bear is reverting to type.
But things are not going to go all Russia’s way. Every time it uses its grip on the supply lines of oil and gas as a diplomatic weapon, the threat loses some of its impact. Russian customers are encouraged to look elsewhere for energy supplies.
On 29 August German Chancellor Angela Merkel took the opportunity of energy group RWE starting construction work on a new coal-fired power plant to make the point. “Generating electricity is Germany’s strong point as an industrial nation,” Merkel declared – though how she managed to keep a straight face is beyond me. Nevertheless she went on to grasp the essential point by supporting a new energy-generation mix consisting of coal, nuclear power and renewable energies.
It is time that Gordon Brown kicked the decade-long fallacy into touch as well. We need to start building nuclear and coal power stations here in Britain sooner rather than later. We could also look at some other useful new technology, such as that being used to exploit the vast tar-sand reserves of Canada.
But then the love-in with renewable energy sources was never really driven by a desire for energy security. It had a lot more to do with the desire by politicians to cosy up to the environmental lobby. And nothing has dominated that lobby network more over the past decade than the belief in and outcry over global warming, which has supposedly been caused by humanity’s output of carbon dioxide. By cutting investment in coal-fired power stations the politicians could polish their green credentials. Of course, turning to nuclear would have tarnished that image for quite different reasons and so renewables became the flavour of the month – or decade.
Which makes it all rather ironic that global warming has now stopped – or at least paused. Global temperatures have not risen for the past 8 years or so, despite the fact that factories and power stations continue to pump carbon dioxide out into the atmosphere. Perhaps there never was a need to fall into the arms of the wind energy lobby after all.
It is time for a reality check. Wishful thinking does not keep the energy flowing. Power stations do.