Blown Fuse - Sparks failed to fly in prime ministerial debates


Our resident grumpy old man, John Houston, this month turns his attention to the general  election

I know by the time this month's diatribe hits your desks the election hullabaloo that has been this most publicly debated of popularity contests will be done and dusted. Personally, I found the alternating public squabbling and sickly patronisation (just in case parliament hung) very entertaining. My fear was a large sector of Joe Public would miss the vital policy points -hence that very nice young man Mr Clegg's immediate rise to prominence following the first debate.

What alarmed me most about the first debate was the very real ignorance it revealed across all three debating candidates when it comes to energy. One would imagine with the environment, perhaps for the first time, being a major part of all three parties' manifestos,  that one of them might have taken a little more than five minutes to acquaint themselves with a few realities.

Both Gordon Brown and David Cameron at least acknowledged a need for nuclear power. Cameron even made the point nuclear stations take a long time to build. The point at issue is whoever has been elected needs now to act fast - In my view decisions that should have been arrived at in a considered way two decades ago now have to be taken in haste.

Clegg's opinion that the major investment should be spent on renewable is naive to the point of ridicule. His argument being nuclear power costs a lot to make. He seems to have missed the point that per kilowatt, other energy generation is also expensive, but at least nuclear power will give us potentially enough for a population set to grow to 70 million over the foreseeable future.

"Buddy, can you spare an amp?"
Will there come a time when we substitute the annual nonsense that is the Beaujolais run for another dash across the Channel to grab a case of EdF's electricity. At least our colleagues at Electricitie de France (I think using the full name emphasises where the world's largest energy firm comes from) make lots of power we can buy. This importation brings nothing to the British economy and as I've mooted before, leaves us vulnerable to the foibles of the French Government and its economy.

David Cameron did at least state that if nothing's done soon, our lights will go out. He didn't actually venture how we will find the finance, design expertise or skilled workforce to fulfil a new nuclear provision. Neither did Brown, and Clegg didn't even have it on his party's agenda.  As I write I don't know who will win. What I do know is those of us who care about energy had better be prepared to carry on the lobby!

Green posturing
I have derided businesses that display token environmentalism in the past. The Prime ministerial candidates remained guilty on all charges of green posturing. Asked by a member of the studio audience in one of the live debates, what each candidate had done personally to reduce their environmental impact, the response was so predictable. Brown said he believed in solar power, Cameron said he didn't do enough but tried not to fly too much and Clegg said he only uses his car when he has lots of kid's stuff to carry.

Did any of them simply state they turn lights off? Who ventured they might install energy efficient lighting? Who suggested they might throw less away unnecessarily? I could go on. In fact, I could go on and on and on.

If our newly elected leader, whoever they are, can't even demonstrate a rudimentary knowledge of how they might reduce their environmental impact (even if they don't actually do it) it's a worry. How can we expect incentives for the installation of active energy efficiency schemes (motion detection switches for example) or energy metering for homes, or incentives to use solar power by rebating users energy bills?

I know the Prime Minister's now in office (not necessarily - Ed), but for me the jury's still out.