UK Knew It Would Be Mugged by Russia
The Scotsman claims that Britain was warned by its previous energy minister that it was foolish to become dependent on Russia for gas.
"The presumption has been that Russia would always be a reliable supplier, but how can that be guaranteed? No-one knows who's going to be in charge in Russia in ten or 15 years' time." - Brian Wilson, former energy minister
Britain's current energy "mix" was determined by the government's energy white paper in 2003. Currently, gas-fired power stations generate about 37 per cent of UK electricity. Coal power stations produce about 35 per cent, nuclear reactors 22 per cent and renewables, such as wind and solar power, account for about 5 per cent.
Mr Wilson left parliament last year. Although he was in office when the white paper was drawn up, he privately argued in 2002 and 2003 that Britain should derive less energy from imported gas.
"But the policy was being made in reverse," he said yesterday. "The growing dependence on gas had to be allowed in order to rationalise the rundown of coal."
The 2003 white paper was published a month before the start of the war in Iraq. Tony Blair, the Prime Minister, paid little attention to the paper, leaving Patricia Hewitt, then trade secretary, and Margaret Beckett, environment secretary, in charge.
The Prime Minister is now understood to regret that and has effectively reopened the debate about energy policy, with a new government review expected to report in the summer.
The review is likely to back the building of a new generation of nuclear power stations, and the Russian row has only strengthened the hand of nuclear advocates in government.
Some good may come out of this after all if the UK goes nuclear. I hate to see Russia shoot itself in the foot like this, but one man rule leads to this sort of silly decision.
TV news last night said that Russia's efforts to squeeze Ukraine are purely punitive and illegal to boot. They allegedly have a fixed price contract with the Ukraine to supply gas through 2016. I don't have any confirmation on that, but Lithuania has similar problems with Gazprom. Perhaps Putin sees this as the big stick he needs to chase errant republics back into the fold. It could be a foreshadowing of what to expect from OPEC when Venezuela and Saudi Arabia put their heads together.
Think of this as a class 2 hurricane. Are your levees strong enough for the next level? New Orleans was also warned repeatedly of the risk.
1/4/2006 2:48 PM