Wednesday, January 04, 2006

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

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At Thursday, January 05, 2006 11:50:00 AM, Blogger mal said...

you would think energy importers would learn that the exporters will eventually play politics with energy. We have had 4 examples in the last 30 years and the message still does not sink in here or elsewhere. It is one thing to import it, but dependency?

I would like to see more Nuclear energy also. It certainly leaves a smaller ecological footprint than anything else. In the wake of 3 Mile Island and Chernobyl though.......

At Thursday, January 05, 2006 4:47:00 PM, Blogger jj mollo said...

TMI and Chernobyl were disasters indeed, but mostly public relations disasters. The damage done to the reputation of nuclear power and the foolish over-engineering that was subsequently mandated have lead to dangerous reliance on polluting fossil fuels. The number of excess deaths caused by coal burning and mining exceeds anything that Cernobyl can be blamed for.

At Thursday, January 05, 2006 7:43:00 PM, Blogger mal said...

JJ,,,I think we are in violent agreement here. The problem is that the results of problems from nuclear incidents are much easier to tie to the industry.

Sadly, we are so far ahead of where we were in our design capabilities but the politics makes it hard for us to prove it

At Tuesday, January 10, 2006 6:28:00 AM, Blogger Nicholas said...

So, we can safely say coal use is responsible for at least 10,000 deaths per year globally (from coal mining, industrial accidents, etc. - more than half of them in China, but plenty in the USA and other developed countries). Disregarding deaths from pollution, radiation released during coal mining, radiation released burning coal (yes, it's significantly more radiation than a nuclear plant releases), this is still something like 5,000 times the average yearly deaths from all nuclear accidents.

If you add up the 50-60 deaths from Chernobyl and the few others related to other nuclear plants, plus a few uranium mining deaths, and divide by the number of years nuclear power has been taken advantage of (say 60) you get 1-2 deaths per year, average.

Now tell me, which is more dangerous?


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