Wednesday, 8 September 2010

The energy challenge in the face of dwindling supplies of coal, oil and gas

We must harness resources such as wind and nuclear power to create a
sustainable and low-carbon economy

Britain faces an energy challenge in the coming decades which is
unprecedented, and all the more formidable for being double-faced. It would
be bad enough if the challenge were just to keep the lights on. Four factors
will make that a tough job, and make our supply of domestic energy
considerably more problematic in the near future: the soaring global demand
for fossil fuels; the costs, risks and difficulties of extracting them from
ever more difficult places such as the deep waters of the Gulf of Mexico;
the drying-up of our own oil gusher, the North Sea; and the coming
obsolescence of a substantial part of our own electricity-generating plant. Yet that's only the half of it. The task facing the UK is not only to
provide the population with a secure and affordable energy supply - it is to
do so while simultaneously cutting national emissions of carbon dioxide, the
principal greenhouse gas, by 80 per cent by 2050, as the linchpin of our
action against climate change. That means moving away from the fossil fuels,
the coal, oil and gas which produce it, in a colossal technological shift.
It means creating the low-carbon economy. But although these two aims of keeping the lights on and cutting carbon at
the same time make the effort seem twice as big, they complement each other.
If supply and price insecurity are major future risks of fossil fuels,
seeking low-carbon alternatives, especially home-produced ones, is the
obvious answer.

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