By Gerald Foley
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Of course, we should save energy wherever we possibly can, wherever it is economically sound to do so. I would summarise my main disagreement with Lord Avebury in that he is suggesting that we should foreclose options for the future. As a scientist, I would feel very loth to say, 'No, future generations shall not have this option'. The worst thing that could happen would be a major cutback in effort in the fast reactor and reprocessing fields because if it were ever necessary to develop those technologies, we would have to start rushing at the problem, What is the Energy Problem?
Statistics are published weekly of the number of trillions of tonnes of deposits being found and some of us feel a certain wry relish when we are asked to compare the environmental costs of digging in the Vale of Belvoir or building a fuel reprocessing plant at Windscale. But coal mines depend upon miners. ). A crash programme of developing new collieries of the Selby or Vale of Belvoir type — the sort of programme I came to favour in 1973 — has a lot to commend it. It is just conceivable that if the programme were undertaken the output of coal could reach 150-200 million tonnes by the turn of the century.
If you go forward fifty years, you can imagine that energy demand will have tailed off. However, I believe that electricity will be used considerably because it is a convenient fuel. Where it is properly priced, it is little used for, say, resistance heating in homes but I think, in the future, it will be used more for things like heat pumps. In the UK for a long time, due to government influence on the CEGB, electricity was sold at a ridiculously low price and this naturally distorted the market.