Wednesday, 23 May 2007

Nuclear Power, Energy Supply & Climate Change

I usually put my more strident rants on my Bile blog - but I think this one - triggered by the Energy White Paper published yesterday - needs to be here...

Of course, slowing climate change is about reducing carbon dioxide (and other greenhouse gas) emissions, not purely about changing energy sources.
We could reduce CO2 emissions by
  • reducing road traffic levels and aircraft use,
  • building more energy efficient housing
  • and by using energy more efficiently in industry.

And that's all before even thinking about social changes towards a lower energy lifestyle (see Transition Towns). Even when you consider electricity generation, the technology exists for lower powered computers, fluorescent lighting etc, not to mention uses (like heating) where electricity is simply inefficient.

So – when a Government is prepared to spend just £18M a year in energy conservation grants but several billion pounds on replacing nuclear weapons (which are contingency against a less certain threat than climate change) and several hundred billion pounds maintaining a military operation (partly) to safeguard oil supplies – you have to wonder at its priorities.

What I'm getting at is the suggestion that we need nuclear power to counter the threat of climate change is cr*p - I won't get into the arguments about nuclear waste, the threat of accident, the threat of terrorism, the impossibility of insuring nuclear power stations or even the fact that uranium extraction from its ore generates significant levels of CO2 - let's just say there are other alternatives in the timescale we've got.

As to security of supply – sources of high-grade uranium ore (eg West Africa, Siberia) are not exactly politically stable, any more than sources of oil and gas.
And current nuclear power stations are designed to produce weapons-grade nuclear fuel by reprocessing. That’s one of the reasons why the Americans doubt the Iranian civil nuclear programme so much. Development of entirely ‘civil’ nuclear power stations will take much longer than the 20 year window we’re told we have.

Of course if photovoltaics, wave or tidal power could have been used to create weapons of mass destruction, they’d have been fully developed by now.

And I guess it is coincidence that the Government have published planning reform for major infrastructure projects and a strategy identifying the need for new nuclear power stations across the country.

Friday, 18 May 2007

Political Shapings

Well - Cllr Milburn 'Dougie' Douglas is our new mayor - and - if the votes go as expected on Monday night (21st), we'll have a Con-Lab coalition running the council (with support from the Independents and myself) with the LibDems in opposition.

It's a shame the all-party alliance has folded - but aggressive political campaigning during the election made it near inevitable. In some ways, returning to a conventional administration-opposition arrangement may lead to more debate in public - which will be a good thing if it casts more light than heat.

However with the possibility of Unitary Authorities looming over us - we'll most likely to have a full year's election campaign - and that won't do anyone any good when what we may need a well-managed transition.

Sunday, 13 May 2007

Steam Train in Morpeth

Sat May 19th:
The charter steam train listed in the diary (over there) is coming up from Cleethorpes and is due to be at:

Newcastle Central: arr 14:05 dep 14:07
Benton North Junction 14:16
Newsham 14:33
Hepscott arr 14:47 dep 15:17
Morpeth arr 15:26 dep 16:29
Newcastle Central arr 16:50 dep 16:53

See website

Friday, 4 May 2007

Election Outcome

Some big and (possibly) unexpected changes - with Independents and Labour losing out and the LibDems making some big gains.

The Town Council now has 13 LibDems 1 Labour and 1 Green (Nic) - but I'm sure there'll be no party politics played

The Borough Council has 12 Conservatives 12 LibDems 6 Labour 2 Independents and 1 Green (Nic) - and with 17 councillors needed for a majority coalition - we can expect to see Labour 'courted' by both Conservatives and LibDems - could be interesting. And who is going to be the next Mayor now that Geoff Proudlock has been voted off the Council?

I expect my Councillor Website will be re-activated soon - but I'll keep this blog going for the bits I'm not allowed to put on the website.

Tuesday, 1 May 2007

Interactive Leaflet 9 - Unitary Authority?

We may be getting a change in local government in the next couple of years with the abolition of both District and County Councils and their replacement by either one or two ‘unitary authorities’.

There's a consultation of 'key stakeholders' going on at the moment - that doesn't include the general public or any community organisations - deadline 22nd June - with the Government announcing what we're going to get in July.

Of course - its outrageous

- its outrageous that the government is imposing this change without any sort of referendum, but then we did give them the 'wrong answer' on regional government, so we can't be trusted

- its outrageous that the County Council pre-empted any discussion by declaring they'd be bidding for a single unitary authority within hours of the Government announcement, and brought their Cabinet up to speed a few weeks later - and then fudged the full council decision

- its outrageous that the District Councils 'played the game' by counter-bidding with a two unitary model, again without any real consultation (though as a loyal member of CMBC Executive Board, I'm of course fully behind the two unitary bid)

- its outrageous that Government 'bottled it' and did not choose a single option for consultation, thereby blighting any chance of co-operative working between County and Districts for another six months

But outrage won't get us far... Some parties are suggesting a private referendum - but this would take £120,000 of tax payers money with no guarantee that the Government will pay it heed.

So - we must try to get the best out of what is on offer...

As we see it, this change is all about
  • more cost-effective centralised services
  • meeting the different needs of urban and rural Northumberland
  • and local accountability.

As a party, we feel that local accountability is most important and we’ll be looking to maximise this in all options under consideration.

And, whatever the outcome, the Town Council will become far more significant under unitary government so the results of this election are really important.