Saturday, 5 July 2008

Everything's gone green

Alarming report in yesterday's Guardian about the World Bank's report impact of biofuels on world food prices,which took me, at least, by surprise with its conclusion that the rush to biofuels has pushed prices up by 75%. (The Americans are sticking to 3% at the moment).

The Government is due to publish the results of its own inquiry, the Gallagher report, very soon - although it has of course already been widely leaked and, if the leaks are accurate, also concludes that biofuels have had a 'significant' impact on food prices.

It looks as if the brakes will have to be put on biofuels. So what's the alternative? Biomass? More wind turbines? Tidal power? Solar power? Do opponents of nuclear power believe that these can alone fill the gap? (By the way, my question about the Severn Barrage's impact on Bristol Port at last week's DBERR session.... not to be interpreted as in any way opposing plans for the Barrage. OK? But we do need to look at its impact on the future of Bristol as a deep-sea container port, as well as the environmental consequences. Locks could be put into the barrage, but it would be costly and delay ships by a couple of hours, making the port less competitive. The Port Authority therefore prefers the tidal lagoons option, if there has to be a tidal power scheme at all. Me, I'm reserving judgment on what's the best option until the Feasibility Study is concluded, as that's the point of conducting a feasibility study, isn't it?)

There was also this report that UK voters believe that taking action on climate change is more important than tackling the global economic downturn, and that 63% of them support more green taxes. Traditionally voters tend to say that kind of thing to pollsters but then vote for lower taxes when it comes to an election; but it does offer hope that the battle of ideas is slowly being won.


James Barlow said...

Well done for highlighting the adverse economic impacts of a barrage across the Severn.

It's easy to forget that the UK is an island nation, and that Bristol is a port city. The benefits from increased international trade through the South-West (by conversion of Bristol to a deep-water container hub) are considerable, and would do more for the city than a thousand "City of Culture Bids", "Cycle City Bids" and other marginal political interventions.

A few hundred years ago, Bristol was England's second largest port, but now we're somewhere around the bottom of the top twenty; containerisation could see us the city back in the top five.

I always recommend this book as a good introduction to containerisation:

The Box How the Shipping Container Made the World Smaller and the World Economy Bigger

In his book, Mark Levinson discusses the gradual decline of non-containerised ports such as New York, London and Liverpool due to their failure to adapt quickly to containers.

Kerry said...

David Drew has a 90 minute Westminster Hall debate on this on Wednesday. Unfortunately I have to be in an SI committee, but might make it for the later stages.

So what's the Conservative policy on the Severn Barrage, James?

Glenn Vowles said...

No mention of energy efficiency and energy conservation in your comments here Kerry. They are the number one focus in any truly green energy policy. There is massive scope to lower energy demand and cut out waste. Such a pity it does not get talked about much more and is regarded as boring/unsexy.

Kerry said...

No, you're quite right Glenn - I've got some stuff about it on my main website, in the Climate Change issues section - 10 easy steps to reduce energy consumption, checking your carbon footprint, etc. We do have to move away from over-consumption, built-in obsolescence and the stack-em-high, sell-em-cheap culture.

Kerry said...

By which I mean, for example, the trend towards selling ultra cheap clothes in supermarkets and Primark. Cheap, disposable, replaceable... And that's not to mention the question of just how they can manage to make them/ sell them so cheaply in the first place.