Michael Glackin in the Sunday Times says the Russian invasion of Ukraine has changed UK energy security. The answer, he says, is to drill for more oil and gas, frack and build nuclear power plants.
He’s palpably excited about Boris’ new ‘energy supply strategy’ but when have the Conservatives ever come up with a strategy that benefited Scotland and not the City of London? Successive Westminster Governments of both colours have been reckless with the nation’s energy resources, having sold them off to the highest bidder decades ago to enrich private corporations and shareholders, and is the reason the UK has no energy security today. And the oil and gas the UK Government privatised belonged to Scotland, as does the vast majority of this island’s offshore wind, wave and tidal potential. Nations like France and Norway were wiser, keeping control of their strategic energy resources so that today their governments are able to shield their citizens from the obscene profiteering by oil and gas companies, many of whom offshore their profits to avoid paying the full amount of tax owed on their operations here.
Will Boris’ ‘energy supply strategy’ reinstate oil taxes the UK Government cut to zero in 2015, foregoing tens of billions in revenue and making the UK the most profitable place not only for Russian oligarchs to launder their money but also for Big Oil to operate? Doubtful. And you can forget fracking if you care at all for the environment. The US has discovered to its cost that fracking causes earthquakes and contaminates groundwater.
As for nuclear power, not only does Scotland not need it but also there are two big problems. There is no way to safely dispose of toxic nuclear waste. MPs have warned that the UK is storing an “extraordinary accumulation” of this hazardous waste in “outdated facilities” that will cost £70 billion to clean up. So it is a deal breaker, Mr. Glackin. Nuclear power is also uneconomic. A recent German study of nuclear power plants constructed around the world since 1951 found the average plant made a loss of 4.8 billion Euros. Small modular reactors (SMRs) like the ones Rolls Royce is pushing, won’t save the day. There’s just one SMR operating and it’s in Russia. The two SMRs in Wales and Cumbria have been mothballed. Because nuclear power is so expensive, not even private companies are willing to stick their necks out to finance these plants. That’s why the UK Government is forcing consumers to pay for the upfront costs of nuclear power plants with its Nuclear Energy Financing Bill. The number of politicians with commercial ties to the nuclear power industry may also explain the UK’s eagerness to have consumers bankroll this dangerous energy source.
Renewables are by far the cheapest, most abundant and cleanest source of energy. Even before the war in Ukraine, global oil and gas prices were higher than renewables and the price of wind, tidal and wave power hasn’t changed. Renewables generate nearly 100% of Scotland’s electricity and there’s capacity to develop far more, which England is going to need. Scotland possesses a quarter of Europe’s offshore wind and tidal power, and 10% of its wave power potential. Renewables projects can be developed quickly and are six times cheaper than gas generation. Yet the UK’s privatised Ofgem has stymied new renewables projects by its absurd charging regime whereby Scottish generators pay £7.36/MWh to connect to the grid but their English and Welsh counterparts pay just £0.49, and generators in southern England get a subsidy!
There’s also the small matter of cataclysmic climate change. Last month’s IPPC report excoriated the world’s governments for acting in a fragmented and incremental manner when transformational changes are needed to safeguard human wellbeing. If we fail to reduce emissions, the Ukrainian refugee crisis will be dwarfed by the exodus of people around the globe desperate to escape rising sea levels, devastating heat waves, wildfires, lack of food and water, illness and trauma from natural disasters. Increasing oil and gas production will only accelerate humanity’s suicide.
The facts are, Mr. Glackin, that Scotland doesn’t need a UK energy strategy that subsidises Big Oil and nuclear power. What Scotland needs is to restore its independence so it can forge its own energy strategy and provide its citizens with security, safety, affordability, jobs and a more sustainable and hopeful future.