During the independence debate on STV on Tuesday Patrick Harvie made the sort of remark that we often hear from the Green lobby, which is so divorced from reality that I wonder whether these people can really be so ignorant.
The question concerned oil and gas and their value to Scotland. Harvie claimed that these were not needed because our future should rely on renewables.
This raises two points. The first is, do the Greens realise what petroleum is used for?
Domestic and industrial heating, of course, but there is a huge demand as feedstock for the chemical industry.
It is not an exaggeration to state that our civilisation totally depends on the products of the chemical industry – everything from fertilisers to plastic cups and washing up liquid. How do “renewables” fit in with this requirement?
The second point is domestic heating. Please look at your gas and electricity bills. Note that the cost for electricity is about £0.15 per kilowatt hour; and for gas about £0.03 per kilowatt hour.
Gas is slightly less efficient than electricity for space heating but even so, to change from gas to electricity for domestic heating would incur something like a five times cost increase.
As gas supplies become tighter this problem will need to be addressed but obviously, because of the volume of old housing stock, will involve major problems. One of the main ones will be how to keep the population warm at manageable cost.
So please let us have no more glib assertions from the Greens concerning the lack of need for petroleum.
Preferably we should be receiving suggestions for practical solutions, not just pious statements.
Scottish renewable energy has been a great success but has been, and will continue to be, heavily funded from levies imposed on UK-wide energy bills.
One assumes that, after independence, renewable generators in Scotland will no longer be funded from outside what will then be an independent country.
There will be no case to use English, Welsh or Irish levies to subsidise Scottish power generators. That being the case, Scottish energy bills will rise massively or subsidy for renewables withdrawn, making the generation uneconomic and too expensive to export.
Renewables obligation certificates, feed-in tariffs and renewable heat incentive payments to Scotland’s generators post-independence will have to be funded by Scotland alone or be scrapped north of the Border.
Where, then, will be the SNP’s non-nuclear, renewables energy policy, or is this to be another call on the un-green reliance on oil revenues?
Tom Till FRICS
Red Lane Welshpool