September 23, 2008

Coal and Nuclear Power ‘Will Keep UK Lights On’

He told the Labour Party conference there was an "international battle" for energy security, with much of the world's resources in "unstable" regions.Mr Hutton rejected the criticisms of the environmental lobby, who have protested against a new generation of nuclear and coal-fired power plants, insisting the Government took its climate change responsibilities seriously.He said: "Coal is a critically important fuel for the UK. Flexible. Available. And it will help us reduce our reliance on imported gas."Some people claim that if we consent to new coal-fired power stations it would make our climate change targets unachievable."But the inconvenient truth is that our carbon emissions are capped by EU agreements."Additional emissions will have to be offset by reductions elsewhere."So stopping the building of new coal fire power stations would make no difference to the UK's total carbon emissions, but I think it would damage our energy security."So there is no sense in our turning our backs on coal. Let's keep cleaning it up, not ruling it out."Mr Hutton said by 2020, some 80 per cent of the UK's gas will have to be imported, "much of it from the most unstable regions on the planet".In a reference to the turmoil in global markets, he said: "Our ambition must be more than weathering the economic storm unsettling the world; we must make the changes now so we emerge stronger and fitter."That means dealing with one of the most important threats to our long term competitiveness, indeed our sovereignty as a nation, and that is the new international battle for energy security."In a speech watched from the conference platform by Prime Minister Gordon Brown, Mr Hutton called for a "renaissance" in nuclear energy as well as an expansion in renewable generation.He said events in Georgia and fluctuations in the price of oil underlined the need for the UK to have a secure supply of energy.But Greenpeace criticised Mr Hutton's support for coal-fired power stations saying they would make a "colossal contribution" to climate change.Robin Webster, energy campaigner of Friends of the Earth, said: "Peddling a new generation of coal-fired power stations before we even know if carbon capture and storage is going to work is dangerous and misleading."

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