17 May, 2006

Pre-empting your own whitewash

I'm having real trouble understanding Tony Blair's speech to the CBI last night, where he declared nuclear power was 'back on the agenda with a vengeance'. The pro-nuclear spin is hardly surprising given the noises coming from the government lately, but given that the soon-to-be-published Energy Review was already expected to recommend building new nuclear power stations, why so publicly confirm the suspicion that the conclusion was preordained from the start? Surely this is not the best way to convince people.

I have two theories on this: one is that this is all a big softening up exercise, where the government threatens to build 50 (just a number pulled out the air) new nuclear power stations and exploits the sigh of relief when they then decide to build 10 or so as part of an integrated switch over to more sustainable energy sources. The other is that Blair has got to the stage where he thinks that any massively unpopular decision is the brave and right thing to do, regardless of logical or rational arguments to the contrary. Thus we'll all hate him but he'll be vindicated in the history textbooks of the future (which is where he always seems to be looking).

I'm fervently hoping for the former, but the fact that before the speech a Downing St spokesman rather disparagingly predicted "despairing shrieks of outrage" strongly suggests that the latter may be much closer to the truth. Which is a shame - I'm not going to deny that I'm rather unconvinced about the potential for nuclear to solve any of our environmental or energy security problems, but I'm in full agreement with David Osler, who actually does favour it but concludes:

But none of that should preclude a rational debate on the pros and cons of nuclear power. It's just a shame Blair is trying to bounce a reluctant populace into accepting a given outcome in advance.

Hear hear.

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