Science in Society Archive

Which Energy? Gets High Praise At Launch

People at the Westminster meeting were “stimulated and energized”. Sam Burcher and Dr. Mae-Wan Ho

“This report is extremely stimulating and could hardly be more timely,” said Tim Yeo MP, Chair of Commons Environmental Audit Committee in his opening remarks as the buzz of excitement was hushed. People were still coming in from far-flung reaches of the country, having taken the earliest trains to arrive on time.

Tim Yeo had set the tone. Participants showered praises on I-SIS’ Energy Report at Launch Conference in UK Parliament 25 May 2006. The conference went over time by nearly half an hour, and it was a full hour later before we could sit down to lunch. There was so much bottled up enthusiasm that had to be expressed, frustrations that had to be vented, and ideas to be sounded out to take things forward.

After lunch, a small group met for further discussions to prepare for Saturday 27 May, when more than 30 real enthusiasts would gather for a brainstorming meeting hosted by Chris Maltin, CEO of Organic Power Ltd., Somerset, to take the Dream Farm II project forward. That too, turned out to be a great success.

Meanwhile, our main sponsoring organisation the Third World Network, presented Which Energy? to the 14th Session of United Nations Commission on Sustainable Development (CSD14) in New York USA, 12 May 2006.

Sarahda Iyer of Third World Network reports back: “The response at CSD 14 from NGOs as well as government delegations was overwhelming to say the least. The 220 copies were picked up faster than we could lay them out. The Report proved to be the best of all-under-one-roof assessment of the various options for a sustainable energy future for present and future generations.”

We shall be circulating the speeches from the Launch Conference, as far too many good things would be lost if they were compressed into a conference report. Instead, we present below a selection of the contributions from the floor, edited for brevity, at and immediately after the conference.

David Saunders, entrepreneur and financial consultant from Sussex, reporting on the conference to his friends: “A very comprehensive Energy Report which (amongst other things) examines and demolishes the case for more nuclear power, and gives reasoned and creative arguments for a variety of other sustainable approaches. It’s a report that should excite anyone who has a passion for natural solutions and wants to see broad-scale adoption of systemic approaches. (Ex-Environment Minister Michael Meacher said he felt inspired and nourished by the report and the Launch Conference).

“Proposals include the creation of ultra-productive ‘Dream Farms’- advanced, zero-waste, energy-generating, multi-cropping, biodiversity-increasing, economy-enhancing organic farms – for local energy and food self-sufficiency. The plan is to set up a model Dream Farm in the UK, which integrates aerobic and anaerobic approaches to waste elimination, energy generation, compost making and water purification, and to research and disseminate best practice.”

David Fleming, author of several influential books on sustainability and economics: “ I think we need to realise how good this Report is.  It’s by far the best paper I’ve read about the future of energy and let’s give it as much publicity as we possibly can”

Dr Alan Guwy, University of Glamorgan in Wales and leading expert on anaerobic digestion in the UK: “I fully endorse all the speakers today. There is a future for renewable technologies. The economics of renewables is that they now demand that government and industry take them seriously. In our pilot study we plan to show that potentially across the UK we can make one third of a billion pounds in diesel equivalent from agricultural co-products. And with an ever-increasing population there is always the resource of organic waste.”

Dr. Graham Ennis, Director Omega Institute, Brighton, Sussex: “I feel really uplifted and energised. Thank you so much for the vision expressed.

“Tony Blair can only be described as being possessed of invincible ignorance.  There is a man who is a technological and scientific illiterate, who is deeply frightened of science and technology because he doesn’t understand it. He has been captured by a clique of government scientists and senior civil servants who don’t really understand science and technology either.

“We have looked at this Report very carefully. This is the way forward if we wish to have energy and food security in this country.  There is no question of it.  The economics are outstanding.  Large-scale organic farms based on this system would create an interesting and benign balance that produces agricultural wealth on an industrial scale that would make farmers rich. A totally green wealth balanced by green economic growth. The defining principle of the Report is that once you realise that this model of wealth creation is possible, and that it is transferable to other sectors of the economy, it becomes much bigger than farming alone. This green economic growth model substitutes for the environmentally damaging growth patterns and gets away from the old military-industrial-complex that is raping the earth we live on.  This new model is holistic and is fundamental to shaping a greener society.”

Dr Colin Hines of Protect The Local Globally, the pro-localist, anti-free-market think-tank: “This report is a ground-breaking document.  It brings new angles into the energy debate.  The information on biofuels is crucial. 

“I want to make two points: the funding of these very hopeful scenarios we’ve heard about today, and the politics of nuclear power.  Pensions are actually a way that we could provide the upfront funding required for the very dramatic transitions in both the energy systems and the food systems, and as we heard, the economics of both are good.  Alan Simpson has often made the point that it was municipal bonds that funded improvements in sanitation and energy in Britain a couple of hundred years ago, and it could be municipal bonds that will fund the energy transition. So my question is:  What likelihood is there for encouraging municipal bonds as a way to fund the huge resources required for example, just to make the city energy tight?  That requires a lot of upfront money for long-term saving which is exactly what pension funds are looking for. 

“On the nuclear front, I wonder whether you might do well with a combination of nuclear sceptics on both sides of the house to start questioning Mr Blair’s nuclear policy.  According to one report released, he’s going to try to get it through without a debate in Parliament, and so there won’t be a vote on this.”

Tim Yeo, MP replies: “It is quite right that improvements were financed by municipal bonds in previous centuries.  However, I’m cautious about telling pension funds where to invest their money.  The answer is to allow organisations to float bonds with certain tactical edges. Then leave the pension fund to make up their own minds as to whether the returns are going to be good in those areas, and that would certainly be possible to do.

 “On the question of nuclear it will be disgraceful if the decision is taken without a vote in the House of Commons. I think if we could organise it in a way that there had to be a vote, the outcome would be very problematic indeed [for Tony Blair].”

Mark Griffiths, chartered surveyor from Hampshire, is keen to see much more emphasis put on energy conservation and renewable technologies: “This Report is one of the few serious efforts to examine the real potential of renewable energy, and is to be welcomed as a much needed injection into the national energy debate as we urgently consider the future of our supplies.”

Dr. Eva Novotny, research fellow in astrophysicist, Cambridge University:

“Everyone is much inspired! Congratulations, I-SIS has done it again, a great new project launched in record time.”

“Governments can no longer afford to dither over the looming energy crisis or the effects that non-sustainable energy sources will have on the health of the planet. Which Energy? lays out the possibilities for replacing the world’s dwindling fossil  fuel supplies; and it becomes clear that only renewable sources based on wind, sun, water and organic wastes can sustain our future indefinitely. The last two chapters show how several diverse problems can be solved simultaneously by practising agriculture on farms that operate on a closed cycle: wastes from one unit of the farm become inputs to the next unit and at the same time generate from those wastes a biogas that fuels all the energy needed to run the farm. No carbon dioxide or methane is released into the atmosphere. These organic farms build up the soil to produce healthy crops and healthy animals, without the soil-destroying and oil-hungry
 procedures of modern chemical farming.”

Oliver Dowding, organic farmer Shepton Farms, Somerset: “‘The journey of a thousand miles, starts with a single step’ It is up to us to make that step and perhaps not worry quite so much about what we don’t have the power to change, but what we do have the power to change.  We can’t expect to on having the lifestyle we’ve always had in the way we’ve always had it because it depends on things we aren’t going to have to fuel it. In other words we do have the power to reduce our energy consumption and waste in this country on an individual level.”

Dr. Geoffrey Hunt, Professor at University of Surrey, Founder of Freedom to care: “We should all understand how precious people like Dr Mae-Wan Ho and Professor George Chan are to our society and our future.  And why it is that we don’t have more people like them and why it is that so many of them are marginalized, pushed out of academia, pushed out of the research institutes, sometimes victimised and vilified, and lies told about them, when these are the very people that are showing us the way forward.

“We need political change, not just technological changes that will engage citizens in valuing openness and transparency, freedom of information and decent electoral systems, which we certainly don’t have. Rather than the primitive regimes and corporations that trample all over the planet.”

Michael Meacher MP replies:  “I think that’s a wonderful statement about the politics of the future.  You put your finger on so many of the key points about what’s wrong with our society.  It is basically and increasingly a corporate state.  It is run in a very narrow clique between the leaders of business, finance and to some extent the media and the political leadership.  And it is only a very small group of people who are dictating the whole direction of policy altogether with the increasing suppression of free speech, not obviously and totally, but in very important ways.  I think the range of the debate is being narrowed and we are going in the direction of America.  Thank you for what you said.”

Tim Yeo MP, speaking as he had to leave before the end of the general discussion, which went overtime: “Maewan, thank you very much indeed for that vision of the future and I look forward to covering the countryside with these farms!  I was very glad you mentioned the importance of having happy animals. My favourite chef is Albert Roux and he told me a long time ago that the best taste in food comes from animals that are happy. ‘A happy chicken is a tasty chicken’!  I’m quite sure that’s absolutely true.”

The Rt Hon Michael Meacher MP, at closing: “It’s been a wonderful morning that has fired my political and spiritual energies.  We’re here to celebrate the launch and carrying forward of this Report which has a transformational capability.  The world and this country face an energy crisis.  These original, thoughtful and ingenious, but highly practicable and affordable ideas are indeed the way forward.”

Don't miss out! Order your copy of Which Energy? £7

Audio CD of launch conference £5

Both the report and audio CD £10

Which Energy? report plus audio of launch conference

Article first published 07/06/06

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