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ANOTHER PLANET

The UK Government have finally accepted that they are perhaps not the greenest ever – and also seemed to have noticed that instability in the Middle East seriously affects the price of oil and oil supplies – and all of a sudden Chris Huhne, the Energy Secretary, says the Government will speed up efforts to move away from a dependency on oil, saying “Getting off the oil hook is made all the more urgent by the crisis in the Middle East. We cannot afford to go on relying on such a volatile source of energy when we have green, clean and secure energy from low carbon sources. Philip Hammond,  The Transport Secretary, has been told he needs to have a nationwide strategy to roll out an infrastructure for electric cars in place by June.  It is also expected that new deadlines will be set for the building of low carbon homes and that September 2012 will be the starting date for the new ‘green’ investment bank in the UK. Its funny they have just noticed really, its not just ‘ethical’ to be green – it makes sound economic sense as well – just perhaps showing how much power and influence  the oil, gas and coal companies still have in persuading politicians that fossil fuels are STILL the future. They are not.

UK coastral regions have been told to ‘prepare now’  for rising sea levels. The Impact of Climate Change on Disadvantaged UK Coastal Communities Report says that someone of the worst affected areas including the coastline in South Wales, Norfolk, Suffolk and the Western Isles in Scotland have seen coastline retreat happening in front of their eyes and the report says that coastal erosion and rising sea levels will have a ‘severe impact’ on much of the UK’s coastline.

Friends of the Earth have said that plans to cut Europes carbon emissions by 80% by 2050 are ‘totally inadequate’ – despite the fact that the EU has announced tougher CO2 emission targets for countries in Europe.  Goverments are alreday committed to a 20% reduction by 2020 based on 1990 levels – and this has been raised to 25% – and now the EU also wants 2050 emissions to be cut by 95%.  But Friends of the Earth say that despite this, the planet could warm by 3C and that a minimum 40% cut in greenhouse gas emissions is needed by 2020 to keep rises under 2C – the maximum scientists say the planet can take.

The dreadful images from Japan after the 4th worst recorded earthquaque ever and the frightening tsunami in the wake of the 9.0 magnitude quake have brought up some painful debates about clean power. Is nuclear green? At all?  As the Fukushima nuclear power plant suffers its third explosion amid fears of a meltdown and widespread radiation poisoning,  Greenpeace stuck to the line that nuclear was wrong saying “its important for Europeans to realise that you don’t need a big earthquake to cause a nuclear catastrophe. Its time we moved away from dangerous and expensive nuclear and embraced renewable power”. But many commentators said that the shut down in nuclear capacity would just prompt a return to burning fossil fuels to generate power – unsustainable, polluting and major contributors to greenhouse gas emissions. The price of natural gas has already risen 2.8% on the world market in response to market pressure although interestingly oil has dropped 4.5% amid speculation that Japan’s economy will falter pushing down overall demand. The price of uranium has dropped 9% as markets feared nuclear power plants will be shut down or shuttered.  But many said that nuclear energy was essential to replace the harmful effects of burning coal, gas and oil to generate electricty and that there are no viable ‘green’ alternatives to nuclear as yet with limited capacity for hydroelectric,  wind and solar power. Britain now faces a nuclear plant safety review into the country’s ten somewhat aging plants which provide 18% of the UK’s electrical energy.  Germany has already shut seven older reactors and countries across Europea are now conducting safety tests into the effect of potential natural disasters such as earthquakes on plants – as well as design issues and back-up systems. EU Energy commissioner Gunther Oettnger said that he was planning for a EU standard for nuclear power plant safety tests.