Saturday, 4 October 2008

Is DECC good news for us greenies?

Aha! Today I have a new acronym to add to my editor's checklist: DECC, the Department for Energy and Climate Change. Announced yesterday as part of the cabinet reshuffle, this new department will be led by Ed Miliband and has been welcomed by Greenpeace. Indeed, they’re so pleased about it that they’ve sent me a letter* (well, they issued a round robin to all their members, but I flatter myself they wanted to let me know personally!)

What a shame, though, that Gordon Brown didn’t bother to mention it in his round robin to Labour Party members – he was too busy justifying the resurrection of Peter Mandelson. What does that say about his underlying concerns? Is DECC a token effort? Oh boy, I hope not.

I am a tad suspicious of the motives behind this new department, though. The person who told me about the announcement mentioned the n-word (nuclear) in the very same breath…

I’m a definite fence-sitter when it comes to nuclear power.

It’s not a ‘sustainable’ option in any sense of the word, and in any case leaves us with the same problem as on-going oil usage – namely that we can easily be held to ransom by hostile countries who are sitting on the fuel sources. Wind, wave and solar we have aplenty, so let’s hunker down and develop these cleaner, safer and home-grown technologies.

On the other hand, from the politicians’ viewpoint, telling people to cut energy usage is not a vote-winner (as we’ve already begun to see with the low-cost insulation announcement); the prospect of power cuts, or worse, rationing, is even less enticing. But if people don’t get a grip on their energy usage the politicians have to come up with something, and nuclear is a low-carbon-emissions alternative.

So I’ll give two cheers to Ed Miliband and his new department; and with my editor’s hat on, let’s hope to goodness that Mr M lets his civil servants give it a proper logo and sensible acronym – unlike the powers that be who insisted on dropping the ‘department’ from Communities and Local Government.

Talking of which, I’d like to add three cheers for the appointment of Margaret Beckett as minister for Housing. Only yesterday I was reading of the woeful lack of heavyweights in government [Tribal gatherings by Decca Aitkenhead], and Mrs Beckett (I am told that’s her moniker of preference!) brings a wealth of experience to this portfolio, which is set to be one of the highest profile issues for many months to come. If the house builders cause her any trouble, she can always call in the caravan manufacturers!

* Send Mr M a letter via Greenpeace’s campaign to encourage ‘green collar’ jobs and stop the development of the Kingsnorth coal-fired power station. See also an informative take on the news on the Greenpeace blog.

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