As an island we need to be self-sufficient

Torbay Weekly

I hope that the dreadful situation in Ukraine, created by one of the world’s most dangerous and cruel megalomaniacs, should teach us something - basically that our little island should become as self-sufficient as possible.

Putin is not the only lunatic out there who can cut off energy, fuel, food and generally cause extreme pain and havoc. The obvious current pain and suffering of the poor souls in Ukraine is catastrophic, but there will be general economic suffering to all coming swiftly on the heels of this current world disaster, even though we are not in the eye of the storm – for the moment at least.

I have long believed that the good outweighs the bad when it comes to fracking. Now there would be added benefits, as being self-sufficient in gas, which is easily achievable, we take away one of the ace cards in Putin’s arsenal.

Not only would the fracking of shale gas contribute significantly to the UK’s future energy needs, but it could also create thousands of jobs. In USA, fracking has driven down gas prices and significantly boosted domestic oil production. Added to this, it is estimated to have offered gas security to the US and Canada for about 100 years and has presented an opportunity to generate electricity at half the CO2 emissions of coal.

In the UK, drilling companies suggest trillions of cubic feet of shale gas may be recoverable from underneath parts of the UK through the fracking process.

I don’t believe that we can continue to pander in totality to the climate sceptics, and we have to find some kind of compromise solution to avoid being dependent on others for our survival. I understand some research shows that coal is less damaging to the environment, so maybe we should consider re-opening the mines.

What I have found out is, whilst coal extraction is all but over, the mines themselves may still have a vital role to play in the UK’s energy mix as a host of green initiatives aimed at tapping into the vast labyrinth of tunnels, shafts and roadways beneath its towns and cities gather momentum.

In recent years, researchers, engineers and scientists have begun to ask if this legacy of our polluting past, and in particular the huge volumes of mine water – heated by geological processes to temperatures as high as 40˚C – could actually help power the UK’s shift to a zero-carbon economy.

I found, in The Engineer publication, that one particularly vocal evangelist for this green repurposing of the mines is Jeremy Crooks, head of innovation at the Coal Authority, the government agency responsible for looking after the mines.

He said: “Mineshafts have always been a liability, but we look at them in a totally different way now. When you look at the opportunities that sit around these mines, this is no longer a liability: it’s an asset of strategic importance to the UK.”

Apparently, the Coal Authority now has around 30 different projects aimed at tapping into the estimated 2.2 million GWh of annually renewing zero carbon geothermal energy held within the mines.

Beyond individual energy schemes though, Crooks spies an even bigger opportunity, and believes that mines could be used as giant inter-seasonal energy stores where heat from a variety of sources – including waste plants, wind turbines, solar thermal panels and even sewage – could be used to elevate the temperature of the existing geothermal resource. “This has never been done at a large scale anywhere in the world so it could be an opportunity for the UK to really lead the world,” he said.

The possibilities are, he said, almost limitless. “What you’ve got is an enormous container below ground and all of these things you can do with it because it’s filled with water and water, as a preferential transmitter of heat, opens up all of these opportunities.”

Sadly, this is all above my pay grade, but I think the UK has to develop some of these ideas and hopefully lead the world to a greater ability for self-sufficiency whilst not damaging our already fragile planet.

The PM and his predecessors know all about this, as do MPs. It is public knowledge. If I can research it, so can they. The point is, are they going to do anything about it, or are they going to sit on their hands and let us all freeze to death and unable to travel due to their inertia.

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