Sunday, 3 July 2011


When it comes to developing (or devolving) energy resources there is always a price, either paid for by the indigenous inhabitants (i.e. us) and / or by the environment. The snipping between Westminster and Cardiff Bay over the 50 MW rule is only a symptom of a greater problem - our ever increasing need for and our dependency on the energy we need to make our society function. The extraction of oil form the tars sands of Alberta, the extraction of fractured gas (from under parts of the south of Wales) or the construction of wind farms (largely run by and for the profits of companies based out side of Wales) all comes with a price that someone (often local people) end up paying.

Some of these potential energy resources are costly in a variety of ways, not just environmentally - if the basic rule of thumb (even with relatively high prices per barrel in the case of oil) is one unit of energy in for the ten units of energy out - then some of the prosed developments and their returns are marginal at best. In the case of tar sands to extract one barrel of oil, you need to burn 1,400 cubic feet (US) of natural gas, to polluter 250 gallons (US) of fresh water (and then store or clean the polluted water) and emit over 220 pounds (US) of carbon dioxide. Incidentally (and just for the record) in 2009/2010 the USA used some 19 million barrels of oil per day.

The environmental price for fractured gas is equally grim, and if this goes a head we will all get to live with the residual environmental pollution for years and years afterwards and see scant medium to long term benefits and get parts of our country and some of our communities trashed as part of the process. The palpable anger in parts of Mid Wales over the development of Wind farms and the electricity grid to carry the energy away is only the start - this row is going to rumble on, the reason I say this is that fundamentally the decisions about developing energy resources in Wales are being made in Westminster and fundamentally the development to communities across the length and breadth of Wales.

Glyn Davies, the much respected Conservative MP for Montgomeryshire (and former AM) has somewhat honestly said that his constituents should target their protests at Westminster rather than Cardiff Bay, which if nothing else is a backhanded and belated recognition of the fact that decision making over energy development and energy policy is made outside of Wales. Basically its not for us (the Welsh People) to decide or to benefit form decision made outside of Wales, but, we will have to live day in day out with the consequences - that state of affairs is something the voters of Montgomery and the voters of Bridgend may come to regret along with the rest of us.

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