Ron offers praise to Gordon brown for several of his recent initiatives
Good news number one.
At last, under a new Prime Minister it has been announced that the Government will sanction the building of new nuclear power stations, (a decision now backed by the Tories). The environ-mentals, as someone recently called them, are tearing their hair, of course, but they have no practical alternatives to offer if we are to ensure an unbroken supply of electricity. Sir David King, chief scientific adviser to the Government until very recently and one of the most outspoken scientists warning of global warming, accused the environmentalists of wanting to take us back to the 17th century. He argued that we must look for technological solutions including nuclear power. The one regret we must have, however, is that, due to the shortsightedness of Mrs Thatcher's government, the team of engineers that designed and built Sizewell B was disbanded and it is almost certain that we will have to rely on foreign companies to build our new power stations. A tragic situation for the country that built the first nuclear power station in the world.
Of course we must exploit renewable energy as much as is practical and we must endeavour to use energy more efficiently but we cannot risk a breakdown in electricity supply due to inadequate generating capacity. Neither can we risk foreign powers controlling our electricity supply, as they do currently because of the failed policies of Mrs Thatcher and Tony Blair in encouraging the use of gas. It is unthinkable in a modern society that we should not have an adequate supply of electricity. The consequences of an unreliable electricity supply would be a disaster for the economy and for our way of life. The limited capability of wind power to provide a significant amount of power has been referred to by more than one contributor to this magazine. The point was illustrated very clearly by some statistics recently released by the German company E.On Netz. They have installed 7000MW of wind power generators in Germany, far more than we have currently, but their operating experience has revealed that during 2005 their average output was just 1300MW, that is only 18% of the installed capacity. Not enough to replace even one small conventional power station. On one day their total output from wind generators was just 8MW. Their big investment in wind power has not enabled them to take one of their existing power stations out of service. Furthermore it is claimed that the cost of wind power generators is almost 2.5 times that of nuclear power. Whilst the advantages of wind power as a renewable source may be questionable, the potential for other renewable sources such as tidal power e.g. the Severn estuary and the potential for greater use of solar energy, especially for domestic water heating, is considerable.
Another piece of good news in the energy field is that planning approval has been granted for a new large coal fired power station at Kingsnorth in Kent. It just needs the final OK from the Government for the Kingsnorth project to go ahead. This will be more efficient than the power station that it replaces and will produce less CO2 /MW. Coal is an important energy source, we have a large indigenous reserve of coal. In the days of the National Coal Board there was considerable research activity into better ways of extracting coal and cleaner ways of burning it. Mrs Thatcher became so fixated with the desire to smash the coal industry, however, that she removed government support for this research and we have lost 25 years of progress in coal utilisation. Nevertheless the technology of carbon entrapment is being pursued once more, (the Government should give more support to this work) and it is intended that the new station at Kingsnorth should make use of this technology as it develops.
The combination of nuclear power and clean coal, supplemented by such renewable sources as are practical, should ensure an adequate supply of electricity, free from the threat of foreign interference and with minimum release of carbon.
Good news number two
Another change due to the change of Prime Minister, is the decision not to increase the number of state funded faith schools. It is recognised by many that faith schools represent a potential breeding ground for divisions in society. It was reported that there are already 7000 Muslim schools in the UK, in my view they are a barrier to achieving a more integrated society and I am pleased that there is no longer a policy to support more with state funding. Most researchers agree that the apparent improved assessment results obtained in faith schools are due to their ability to be more selective with their intake rather than because of any inherent improvement in the teaching. As has been said before in these columns, it would be better if we adopted the relevant clause in the constitution of the USA i.e. "All schools maintained wholly or in part by public funds shall be forever free from sectarian control or influence."
Good news number three
For the last forty years the USA has consistently blocked every effort by the United Nations to force Israel to withdraw from the occupied territories in Palestine and to remove the illegal settlements. Without doubt the injustices suffered by the Palestinians resulting from Israeli and American policies have been largely responsible for the growth in Islamic militancy and terrorism by Muslims. Now, at last, we have none other than George Bush saying that the Israelis must withdraw from the occupied territory and suggesting that they should financially compensate Palestinian refugees. Unfortunately, since George Bush is now a lame duck President, it may not reflect a significant change in US policy but it is a ray of hope.
So could it be that our leaders are at last displaying evidence of common sense? Was the report in this magazine some time ago, that common sense had died, wrong after all? We can