Thursday, 24 May 2012

Energy - the House of Commons debates nuclear, petrol prices and shale gas

The House of Commons has seen a series of debates and statements to the House this week, as to how we keep the lights on, how we heat our homes, and how we run our cars.
Various governements have dithered about nuclear energy policy in the last 20 years but we learned in this week's energy statement that the UK can carry on running its existing fleet of nuclear power stations for longer. The safety case will be examined reactor by reactor, but the mood is to lengthen their lives. It’s certainly a cheap and immediate answer to the short term problem of how to keep the lights on.
I have been struck by how the people who live near a nuclear reactor are all very keen to have a second one built to replace the old. This is surely the biggest advert for their inherent safety. The government has found a way of paying investors and operators more to generate power from future new nuclear stations that does not fall foul of EU subsidy rules. We are clearly right to look to a mix of different power sources as fossil fuel reserves, particularly oil, begins to decine. This should include renewables, albeit like many in Northumberland, I have grave reservations about the efficacy, productivity and cost of onshore wind farms. They are very unpopular locally - not least because they divide communities.

Into this context I debated this week the issue of shale gas and petrol prices:
I have been impressed by the data and reports in to Shale Gas, which has transformed the American economy: if we can find an enviromentally acceptable way of extracting shale gas then this will go a long way to energy security, as shale gas is added to the North Sea natural gas deposits. I spoke on Tuesday in the shale gas debate brought by a number of Lancashire MPs, which can be found here:

Separately yesterday I debated the issue of Fuel Prices and called for an Office of Fair Trading Investigation into the oil companies and petrol prices generally. The full debate led by my friend the member for Harlow Robert Halfon can be found here: