I’d been to Riga, Latvia, to speak at a one-day energy conference organised by my Latvian ECR colleague Roberts Zile MEP, and I had a helluva trip back. The Air Baltic flight out of Riga was delayed three hours, so I not only missed my connection in Brussels at 7:25 p.m., but also the 9:25 which is the last of the day. So I had to stay over Friday night in Brux and leave on the 11:05 on Saturday morning. I arrived safely at Birmingham airport, but my luggage didn’t, and is still on walk-about. Ah, the joys of jet-setting around Europe.
The primary focus of the Conference was energy policy for the Baltic countries, with a lot of emphasis (I was glad to hear) on gas. I think we were all reassured by the huge shale gas deposits which have been identified, and have become recoverable, in the last few years. Some of the presentations were fairly technical and data-heavy, so by comparison I was political, and light-relief. I spoke about the UK experience of energy policy strategy, and why the Baltic countries should avoid the mistakes that we in Britain are making.
I argued (as best I could in my allotted fifteen minutes) that our green energy policies were probably unnecessary, certainly ineffectual, and ruinously expensive. I pointed out that much of our nuclear fleet was close to retirement, and that EU policy (the Large Power Plant Directive) requires us to shut dozen half a dozen perfectly good coal-fired power stations by 2015. We shall need massive new capacity by 2020, and it’s just not being built — or not fast enough.
I pointed out that the government’s plans to substitute wind energy for real power stations were fanciful. The turbines could not be built or installed or connected in the time available. Even if they were, they would require at least 90% conventional back-up, for when the wind doesn’t blow. That would probably have to be gas-fired, and we don’t seem to have factored that requirement — or those costs — into the plans. Finally, even if we could do all these impossible things by 2020, we’d have landed ourselves with the most expensive electricity in Europe.
Higher energy prices will drive energy-intensive industries offshore, and a million more households will be driven into energy poverty. More pensioners will have to choose between eating and heating — all to satisfy the green pretensions of the chattering classes. Meantime China is happy to sell solar panels to Europe, while building a new coal-fired power station every week for its own use. Smart guys, those Chinese.
My session was chaired by Juris Ozolins, an independent Latvian energy expert who has worked closely with the Brussels institutions for some years. I recognised that I had seen him around before. During the presentations, he was flicking through a copy of my new book “Sceptic at Large”, which happened to be on the table, and to his surprise found a photograph of himself on page 31 (on the right hand side).
The photo, which was selected by my editor Rupert Matthews, shows me and two other guys on a panel, looking doubtfully towards a presenter who is out-of-shot. Frankly I wasn’t sure who the other two guys were — I knew they weren’t MEPs — but one was Juris.
Small world. I happily signed over the copy of the book to him.