27 April 2014

1. Greens In Europe: The Energy Issue

Firstly, a caveat on this series of blog posts. I can't possibly cover every issue in a series of blog posts that will come up in the next five years if I'm elected to the European Parliament after 22nd May. If you don't see the issue that matters most to you, I've still probably emailed or discussed this with people during the campaign, at hustings and on the doorstep.

I'm going to begin with Energy. Energy affect all of us and the EU policies as they currently stand can be found here. So what will you get if you elect a Green MEP here in the North West of England, and how does that compare with the other parties?


The Green position is that fracking is dangerous globally because it is a fossil fuel and will lock us into further serious emissions of CO2 for another generation, when we are already well above (now over 400ppm) what would be considered "safe" (350ppm of CO2 in the atmosphere). I believe fracking is the last thrashing of the fossil fuel industry existing model for energy production and profit. We oppose it, not just in a local sense, but in principle. A Green MEP for the North West will ensure that we demand the tightest regulations and safety for fracking (which is the EU competence) but on the ground, I will be involved in and will support, with whatever political resources we can, the local campaigners who are trying to protect their own local areas from the other major risks from fracking, like ground water pollution.

The position of Labour, the Liberal Democrats, the Conservatives and UKIP is that they support fracking. There are going to be invididuals who are against it in principle in these parties. There are also going to be individuals who are against a development in their area. However you are electing 8 European MPs to represent the region for the next 5 years. You will either be electing 8 MEPs who all come from parties who support fracking, or you will elect 7 from parties supporting fracking, and 1 Green MEP who will oppose it. If fracking is your issue, this is why a Green vote matters.

Energy Costs

Energy has become much more expensive. There has been an attempt to blame "green" measures for this. Our aim is to secure affordable energy for everyone for the long term future, and right now, to lower domestic energy costs in your home. We've done this at a local level in Kirklees and the result has been that £3.9 million is being saved by households every year, in fuel bills. We need that sort of scheme nationally.

On the energy hierarchy our priority is reducing consumption first, then tackling the sources of energy. Reduced domestic consumption of energy means lower fuel bills for you, but it also means lower profits for private energy companies (they made £3.5 billion last year). The privatised energy market has failed and the primary way of tackling our CO2 emissions, by lowering energy demand, is up against the needs of private companies to make profit. They either need to sell more energy (which right now means increasing CO2 emissions) or raise prices if we consume less.

The position of Labour, the Liberal Democrats, the Conservatives and UKIP is that they support the privatised energy market and the continued huge profits of bigger providers. The Greens don't. We recognise that the big providers have failed. There is a role for the pioneering smaller innovative providers who have gone into renewables, because we need to get our CO2 emissions down as quickly as possible, but the future of energy has to be in the public sector. It's unacceptable that big companies make so much profit when people can't head their homes.

Our Future Energy Supplies

Right now the priority has to be stop putting CO2 into the atmosphere. That means we need to move to 100% renewable produced energy. Hydroelectric, solar, wind, geothermal (heat pumps) and tidal can all make a huge contribution. It is also something that we need to be part of Europe to achieve. Those who hate wind power insist it can't be a reliable source of energy, but that simply depends what scale you are looking at. Renewables produced more than 50% of Scotland's energy last year and 59% of Denmark's. The IPPR report "Beyond the Bluster" blows away (pardon the pun) a lot of the myths about wind and makes the clear point that if we have wind capacity, we can be an exporter when the wind blows here, and in importer from Germany and Denmark when it blows there.

Finally, for a bit of context, I also like to put this picture in. What we do is a matter of political choice. There is an opportunity to do things very differently in the future, with as much energy as we want, without damaging the environment (and indeed it may help us green the Sahara) but we have a long way to go.

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