Wednesday, 23 July 2014

The pig-headedness of the climate change sceptic

Anyone with a financial interest in maintaining the status quo with regards to energy usage and pollution will go to great lengths to deny strong scientific evidence. On their side are all of the other people who don't have a financial interest in fossil fuels or energy but like to keep their heating and/or air conditioning on, like to drive their large cars everywhere, fly regularly, leave the lights on to save the effort of flicking a switch and believe that greener energy will cost them significantly more.

Let's just forget the environment and consider costs.

Admittedly, building newer, greener energy systems will initially cost money. But the continuing efforts to plunder the planet's natural resources does too. Take drilling for oil. As supplies that we're already guzzling reduce, not only does it become more expensive to buy, it also becomes more difficult and thus more expensive to find the next source. Deeper drilling means hotter temperatures and that requires more money spent on the research into and the production of materials that can withstand these temperatures and still do the job. Then there are areas where the materials used are subject to incredibly acidic, corrosive environments which requires different research and different materials. And this cycle will keep on going, costing ever more money in research and development until eventually, we've used every drop of oil or gas the planet can give us.

So instead of investing in harnessing renewable energy such as tidal power - to take one example - energy companies are spending money on chasing the next source of oil or gas. Tidal power is a very interesting source. For one thing, unlike wind and solar, we can predict exactly when and where power can be harnessed. For an island like the UK, it should also be possible to establish a constant system - where different tide times from around the UK are used to balance out the wave power being harnessed (where one tide goes out, another is coming in) and thus, ensure that there are no peaks and troughs. I say "should": research is already under way into the best ways of doing this. Once tidal power systems are in place, the only certain costs will be upkeep (although of course, improvements will be made from time to time).

Failing to adequately fund new energy is not only short-sighted, it makes no economic sense in the short-term. The sector is already employing more people in the UK than teaching and there is a huge capacity for growth. Employment means people earning and paying tax back into the economy. In the UK, where our earning power in energy is not the greatest (we have little oil and gas and much of the energy work undertaken in the UK is by non-UK companies who pay their taxes elsewhere - what little taxes they pay, that is), the benefits to our economy of growth in this area would be huge..

The constant denial from the right has echoes of the fight to recognise the dangers of smoking. Common sense won that battle in the end; we just need to keep going.

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