IN DESCRIBING Alex Salmond's green energy policy credentials are a "sham", James Hansen, a leading climate expert, may not have won the highest marks in the art of diplomatic persuasion. But he has put his finger on the gamble that the administration's policy has become.
By ruling out a role for nuclear power in Scotland's energy mix, the First Minister is now heavily reliant on new coal-fired power stations to be built in Scotland if we are not to suffer acute energy shortages and the risk of power cuts. This reliance, however, is predicated on the belief that by the time they come to be built the technology will have been developed to capture and store carbon dioxide. At present this technology does not exist. Dr Hansen's argument is that until it does, Scotland should not rely on coal-fired power.
It may well be that Dr Hansen is being as overly pessimistic on the prospects for technological development as the SNP is too hopeful. The point is that the environmental credentials of a critical resource for Scotland are being left to chance. This gamble would not be necessary had Mr Salmond not ruled out nuclear power as a contributor – and to do so before he had sanctioned an independent study into the costs of energy generation across the board. Mr Salmond's power may come at an environmental as well as financial price.