An interesting view on the way forward from Mike Mackenzie reproduced with his permission from his blog “Views from an Island”
Scotland could reach a net zero target for CO2 output quite easily. That of course is predicated on becoming Independent for the simple reason that virtually all energy powers are reserved to Westminster.
Until then we will be dragged along in the slipstream of the UK Government whose agenda is generally not what it seems. As always the prerogative is to firstly serve their financial masters in ‘the City’ and to help the elites remain elite. Serving the public comes quite a long way down the list of priorities and climate change is only interesting insofar as it may provide new ways of hoodwinking and exploiting the population. That is why they work so hard at ‘guilt tripping’ the public. When we are suitably guilty and ashamed and have become dizzy with different accusations it becomes easier to pick our pockets.
Climate change they say is all our fault, the fault of the public, the fault of each of us as individuals. Likewise the damage to the global ecosystem, loss of species and habitat, the general environmental degradation we have all become aware of in recent years, is all our fault. Indeed we are repeatedly told that it is specifically my generations fault and each and every one of us is supposed to carry our individual share of guilt. And of course like guilty children we are, the implicit narrative suggests, going to have to suffer.
You could call this existential guilt trip the new religion, a mixture of the worst aspects of Calvinism and Catholicism on steroids, a dogma of despair. It is a proposition I entirely reject. Like almost all of my generation these past forty years or so I was merely getting on with life, doing my best to get by with the odd bit ( much too little ) of rest and recreation along the way. There was never a time I can recall when any of us were consulted about any of the big or even the small decisions that have led to climate change. Like most folk I eat the food that is available to buy. I use the fuel that is available and seems to me to offer best value. I live a lifestyle that is largely defined by macro-economic forces, by big business and by government. I remember when ordinary people in Scotland were much poorer and I have enough of the canny Scot in me not to waste money, not to live high on the hog, not to consume beyond the point of common sense or to squander any resource wantonly.
I therefore reject this guilt hypothesis entirely and yet we and our children and grandchildren will have to deal with climate change and I agree that Scotland should play its part and even play a leading part in demonstrating what can be achieved. The first thing is to achieve a net zero CO2 target.
The reason why Scotland can achieve this goal easily and without much pain is because we have 25% of Europe’s wind energy resource, 25% of Europe’s tidal energy resource and 10% of Europe’s wave energy resource. With the island of Tiree being the sunniest place in the UK and our long hours of daylight in summer solar energy has a part to play too. Put another way, we have renewable energy resources sufficient to produce at least ten times our own energy needs.
We need not therefore worry too much about our ability to produce clean energy. Already we generate well over 100% of our current electricity needs from renewables and are on course to producing much more. It is in the storage of energy and the adaptation required to meet our energy needs in heating and transport that the challenges lie.
And even these challenges are fairly easily surmountable and achievable with existing technology. The conspicuously absent part of the solution so far has been the tiny hydrogen molecule. Part of the reason for that has been the expense of production. The technology for producing green hydrogen is pretty straightforward and merely involves using electricity to hydrolyse water. This is a process which with ever cleverer catalysis is on the cusp of becoming much more efficient. With wind energy prices falling at a staggering rate and predicted to fall much further the production of copious amounts of clean burning hydrogen is just around the corner.
As an energy dense substance hydrogen is a great way of storing and transporting large amounts of energy and this presents few technical challenges. As a fuel for heating our buildings in our variable, warm one day cold the next climate, it excels. We merely need to replace our gas network piping with pipe and fittings that can contain this tiny molecule and we have solved the problem of an entirely clean green heating fuel. This is no more difficult than the smooth transition we accomplished when we changed from town to natural gas in the 1960’s. This solution is so obvious that already a major gas boiler manufacturer has produced a boiler that can be retro-fitted to run on hydrogen. There is no reason why hydrogen boilers should cost any more than natural gas boilers do today. At around a £1000 for an average boiler this shouldn’t present householders with too much pain.
If we were to become the socially and regionally fair country we aspire to in an Independent Scotland we could make bottled hydrogen available at competitive prices in all parts of the country that are off the gas grid thus also solving the rural fuel poverty problem at a single green stroke.
Of course there is nothing to stop us insulating our buildings a bit better along the way where and when it makes sense to do so. We should though, resist the wholescale pell-mell rush to insulate which is being proposed. This is a recipe for a bungling approach that will inevitably be exploited by cowboys and leave us with shoddy work and a hangover of the sort of insulation and cladding problems that the Grenfell Towers tragedy has done.
That leaves the other big energy consumer of transport to be dealt with. Once again it is difficult to deal with this until we have the full powers of Independence. For example the current Scottish government target for introducing electric cars is impossible to meet until National Grid upgrade the grid network to meet the demand for electricity that this will place on it. National Grid are a private company nominally under Westminster control so I’m not quite sure how the target will be met ahead of the rest of the UK.
There is no doubt though that electric cars are a large part of the answer. This solution doesn’t work well though for vehicles that are in use for many hours each day or for larger vehicles or construction plant and machinery. Fortunately that innovative company, JCB, have already come up with the answer and have developed an internal combustion engine that runs on hydrogen. These engines are no more expensive to manufacture than petrol or diesel engines. Once again the transition can be relatively painless.
There is much more that can be done but the above will take us comfortably and easily to net zero CO2 in a relatively pain-free way. What is lacking in Scotland is the necessary power and the political will to get on an do it. What we need is less talk and more work. Action will speak louder than words. We need to regulate big business and markets better. We need, through taxation and other means, to reward good and socially responsible behaviour. We need to reject the notion of individual guilt for the smokescreen it is and hold our governments properly to account for failing to regulate our exploitation and that of the planets resources by big business and financial elites.
Scotland can have a leading part to play in tackling climate change in demonstrating what can be done. We have had enough of smoke and mirrors and target setting. This is a situation where demonstrating what is possible really matters. If we as individuals are guilty it is in not demanding more of our governments. Scotland’s government needs to get on with achieving Independence and then demonstrating to the world how we can tackle climate change.
I enjoyed this article from the very start because like Mike I share the view that the World’s politicians are using the very real problem of climate change to manipulate the public with the “giant guilt trip” which they then plan to use to empty our pockets and dictate our future lifestyles to their, not our, design.
We need more action and it needs to be backed by fact. How practical is it for instance to use electric cars in rural areas like the Highlands of Scotland? Seems to me that there is a lot of work and investment to be made before that becomes a realistic option for many.
Like Mike, I am attracted to the development of green Hydrogen, it requires electricity to create but thanks to Alex Salmond recognising the advantages early on, Scotland is in a very strong position with renewables to make use of the abundance of good sites for all types of renewables which gives us big advantages over many other nations. Our battle, as usual will be to keep control of those assets and advantages and that is why independence is crucial to that future. Make no mistake as an abundant supply of renewable energy becomes more valuable by the day an Independent Scotland could offer very attractive location packages to energy dependent industries, particularly in manufacturing where potentially there are many thousands of new jobs for the taking. We need all the powers and control of our own resources to make that happen.
I am, as always
Yours for Scotland.
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