January 2, 2010

Running on Empty

We face an uncertain energy future, but one thing is for sure: we will be more dependent on gas in the next decade, and more of that gas will be imported. A low-carbon economy, once created, promises to reduce our dependence upon fossil fuel exporting countries as well as cutting our carbon emissions. However, between here and that promised land lies a decade of difficult choices. This is a reality which is still not being properly addressed by policymakers. We must come to terms with the implications of gas dependence, and the price we might have to pay to deal with it.

With old coal-fired and nuclear plants closing down in the latter half of the next decade before sufficient new nuclear, renewable or coal plants with carbon capture and storage can be built, we will be relying on gas to keep the lights on. This “energy crunch” in generation capacity will stretch our resilience – and our faith in liberalised markets – to the limit. It also raises serious questions about the price we will have to pay for our security – and whether we will have to sacrifice climate goals for energy security.


Robert McIlveen

Research Fellow, 2009-2010

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