Thursday, 23 April 2009

The Budget and Power Stations

The budget was alright, but not brilliant, certainly a step in the right direction and it's nice to hear positive noises from the government regarding the need to put more economic effort into combatting climate change. We've stepped on to the first rung of the ladder shall we say.

The media have given some fairly decent coverage to the arguments made by environment campaigners saying it doesn't go far enough, but as usual they've just been thrown in the latter half of budget stories as 'balance' rather than given over to the detailed analysis and separate stories they really warrant.

Two items of the greenwash vein are worth flagging up in particular though. The first is the car scrappage scheme, which will see motorists have £2000 knocked off the cost of a new car if they trade in any vehicle over ten years old. However, this scheme doesn't restrict drivers to buying especially 'green' cars. Indeed, they can buy anything they like (under 3.5 tonnes), so there's nothing to stop them getting shot of their little one litre Micra and buying a three-litre Beamer instead. Way to cut emissions, Darling.

Secondly, tied in with the budget, is Ed Miliband's announcement that energy companies must "demonstrate CCS (carbon capture and storage) on a substantial proportion of any new coal-fired power station." The thing is, such technology is unproven on a commercial scale. At first, this 'substantial proportion' would represent capturing only around a quarter of emissions from the power stations. Once the technology is proven, which Miliband expects to be by 2020, stations will have five years to adapt CCS to capturing 100% of emissions.

As George Monbiot points out though, Miliband has turned the 'if' question surrounding the technology, into a 'when' question. In the meantime, if CCS works at 25% capacity, for every tonne of carbon captured before 2020, three tonnes will still be released into the atmosphere. Nor should we forget the huge costs involved in developing the fledgling and unproven technology which could be better spent on truly clean, renewable technologies.

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